None of the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the EU so far have Maltese citizenship, Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo has said, in defence of Malta’s decision to keep its passports scheme open to that country.

The EU has issued sanctions against 680 individuals and 53 entities linked to Vladimir Putin so far, having added people to that list just days ago.

People included in that list include many of Putin’s ministers, propagandists and oligarchs who control many of Russia’s most lucrative economic sectors.

Bartolo speaks about oligarchs and passports.

Sanctions issued by the West over the weekend include a pledge to restrict access to EU citizenship to wealthy Russians. But Malta has insisted that its citizenship scheme is not a ‘golden passport’ one and resisted pressure to block Russian applicants.

Speaking to Lovin Malta on Wednesday, Bartolo said that the EU has sanctioned 31 oligarchs so far and that "not one of them" had used Malta’s passport scheme.

“Two had applied but were rejected,” he said.

“Top oligarchs do not come to Malta. They go to where the big guys are. To London and other European capitals.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister argued that Malta’s citizenship scheme was instead used by Russian entrepreneurs who oppose the Putin regime and who sought EU citizenship as a ticket out of Russia.

“Russian authorities would be very interested to find out who these are, to identify them,” he said. “These are not corrupt people.”  

Bartolo insisted that Malta was sticking rigidly to EU sanctions against Russia and said the country had closed its airspace to Russian aircraft before the EU had issued that order.

“We will definitely not harbour or defend anyone. We will not let our system be abused,” he said.

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