NICOSIA, Cyprus — When Cyprus seized hundreds of millions of dollars from bank depositors, many of them Russians, as part of an internationally brokered deal two years ago to rescue its collapsing financial system, the Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, denounced the move as “dangerous” and “unfair,” warning of a sharp chill in relations.
But Mr. Putin was all smiles recently when he received Cyprus’s president, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow. He hailed relations with the Mediterranean nation as “always being truly friendly and mutually beneficial” and agreed to extend — on greatly improved terms for Cyprus — a $2.5 billion Russian loan.
The shift from fury to declarations of eternal friendship displayed Mr. Putin’s well-known flair for tactical back flips. But it also showed his unbending determination to break out of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for armed rebels in eastern Ukraine.Mr. Putin has methodically targeted, through charm, cash, and the fanning of historical and ideological embers, the European Union’s weakest links in a campaign to assert influence in some of Europe’s most troubled corners. One clear goal is to break fragile Western unity over the conflict in Ukraine.