In Cyprus bailout, what's Russia got to do with it?

Newly elected Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades (C) gestures as he delivers a speech during celebrations in Nicosia on February 24, 2013.

European finance ministers are meeting in Brussels today, and at the top of their agenda is Cyprus. The small Mediterranean island nation, which has 850,000 people, is in desperate need of a bailout.

Like other small nations in the region such as Ireland and Iceland, Cyprus allowed its banks to get too big. Cypriot banks have broad exposure to neighbor Greece and its financial troubles. Though the overall amount owed by Cyprus, $22 billion, is manageable, European leaders are hesitant to offer the ailing country a rescue.

Simon Tilford of the Center for European Reform says that might have something to do the biggest banking customers in Cyprus.

"By bailing out Cyprus, they are bailing out Russian oligarchs and financiers who have used Cyprus as a financial center," says Tilford.

To hear more about the economic state of Cyprus and the eurozone, click on the audio player above.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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