[WATCH] Malta refused golden passport to two Russian oligarchs on EU sanctions list

Evarist Bartolo tells MaltaToday’s Newsroom that COVID hotel isolation fees are waived for Ukrainian asylum seekers • Two Russian oligarchs denied citizenship

31 oligarchs considered close to Vladimir Putin have been put on the EU's sanctions list. Evarist Bartolo says two of these were denied a Maltese passport.
31 oligarchs considered close to Vladimir Putin have been put on the EU's sanctions list. Evarist Bartolo says two of these were denied a Maltese passport.

Two Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the EU had applied for Maltese citizenship but were turned down, Evarist Bartolo said on Wednesday.

He was speaking on Newsroom, a MaltaToday production on Facebook, just after government announced the temporary suspension of passport sales to Russian and Belarusian nationals.

Bartolo insisted none of the 31 oligarchs sanctioned by the EU hold a Maltese passport. He said two had applied but were denied as a result of Malta’s due diligence programme.

The foreign minister said Malta does not only obey EU sanctions but is also involved in their drafting. “We also provided information our counterparts were not aware of,” he said.

Bartolo pointed out that it is “only now that there's a war that EU states are waking up to the fact that oligarchs' dirty money is building European capitals.”

He defended Malta’s golden passport due diligence, insisting the country had nothing to hide.

Not all Russians are Putin’s friends

But he also cautioned against treating all Russians as if they are Putin’s friends. “In the Russian Maltese community, there is big opposition to Putin; they do not support this war, which has been described by orthodox priests as a ‘war between brothers’.”

The foreign minister said there are wealthy people who leave Russia “not because they are Putin's friends but specifically because they want to escape his control.”

Bartolo said Ukrainians seeking asylum in Malta will not have to pay COVID hotel quarantine fees if they have nowhere to isolate.

He said the foreign ministry has offered to cover the accommodation costs of Ukrainian nationals and their dependents in quarantine hotels recognised by the health authorities.

The fund will cover individuals who arrived in Malta after 24 February in order to flee the conflict in Ukraine.
Bartolo said the primary concern of the conflict was the human cost. “Above all the main concern is that civilians, children, elderly people and soldiers are dying and suffering.”

Conflict impacts price of wheat

However, he said economic repercussions would be felt too. The price of energy, food, metals and microchips have and will continue to rise, he added.

“The economic effects are serious, Ukraine is one of the main grain producers in the world and so we could well feel the effects of this. Prices of wheat are now at the highest levels they’ve been in 30 years,” he said. 

The foreign minister also noted the impact on international relations and organisations like the UN and the OSCE.

Asked about Ukraine’s request for immediate accession to the EU, Bartolo said Malta was in favour of enlargement but noted this is a process that takes time.

“There has never been a request for immediate accession, which is why we are talking with our friends in Brussels, trying to see what the best way to address this is. What I can tell you is that in the immediate every sort of help that can be given is being given.”

Praise for Ukraine foreign minister

Bartolo had words of praise for Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba with whom he is in contact daily.

“He's a young man; he could be my son. He's an admirable person and politician. He has great stamina to deal with so much at once and remain calm,” Bartolo said, adding Malta was trying all its best, within its limitations as a small state, to help Ukraine.