Prime Minister Robert Abela has described as "baseless speculation" a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph that Malta is the latest target of Russian activity in the Mediterranean – to the consternation of both the US and the EU.
His spokesperson told Times of Malta: “Malta stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies and the Ukrainian people against all actions that violate international law. It also stands ready to offer humanitarian assistance. This is Malta's position. Any other speculation is baseless.”
The Telegraph said in a report dated February 13 that the United States was worried that Russia might be attempting to use Malta “for its malign activities in the Mediterranean region”.
The story, penned by defence editor Con Coughlin, claimed Malta has become “the latest target of Russian activity – to the consternation of both the US and the EU”.
According to The Telegraph, the Mediterranean as a whole is a major area of interest for the Kremlin.
“These days Russia is so well-established in Cyprus that the island has become known as 'Moscow in the Med', while, further to the west, Malta has become the latest target of Russian activity – to the consternation of both the US and the EU.”
Coughlin added: “Washington has expressed concern in recent months that the Kremlin is attempting to use Malta as a soft-entry point for access to the European Union and international financial markets. Recent figures show that a quarter of all applicants for Malta’s 'golden passport' scheme, which allows high-income individuals to acquire a Maltese passport within one to three years, are Russian citizens.
“The island is also a useful launchpad for Moscow’s activities in Libya, as well as other parts of North Africa, and the Pentagon is worried that Moscow might be trying to use Malta as a naval base for its malign activities in the Mediterranean region,” he added.
Diplomatic sources told Times of Malta that the claims were “obscene and nothing but disinformation.
"The Russians already have a base in Libya. Their presence stretches from Mali to Benghazi.”
Abela said on ONE Radio on Thursday that Malta will remain in favour of neutrality and peace.
“While this crisis may seem far away from our country, it will also have an impact on us but nevertheless, we will honour our commitment to keep the price of energy stable."
On Tuesday, Abela told journalists that Malta shares the EU's view on the situation in Ukraine.
He declined to say when asked on Wednesday, however, whether Malta will continue to allow Russian nationals to buy Maltese citizenship.
Replying to questions, he would only say that Malta’s Individual Investor Programme is “robust” and operates strong due diligence policies.
Defending the IIP's integrity and due diligence process, Abela said its rejection rate was very high.
Russians have been among Malta's best clients in the scheme.
During a press conference on Thursday, Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat said that the government was following the situation unfolding in Ukraine closely.
Asked whether the government would stop Russian citizens from applying for Maltese passports, Muscat said the IIP programme had a strong due diligence process.
“We have a due diligence process that no one else in the world has to go through. The due diligence costs us €45,000 for every investor that applies. We have the highest rejection rate in the EU, with a process that is robust and rigorous to make sure the source of their funds is clean. It’s only after all that that we allow people to invest.”