World Wrap

Panic avoided as Cyprus banks reopen

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 28, 2013

Cypriots remain orderly as banks finally reopen, the U.S. warns Kim Jong-un by flying Stealth bombers over South Korea, and an investigation into Russian oligarch’s mysterious death opens. Today is Thursday, March 28, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


Customers line up outside a branch of Laiki Bank as they wait for it to reopen in Nicosia, March 28, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Calm after the storm.  Cyprus finally reopened its banks on Thursday after shuttering them for nearly two weeks while a 10 billion euro bailout plan was decided upon. Cypriots waiting in line to withdraw cash were surprisingly calm. Cyprus enacted temporary but strict capital controls to avoid a feared bank run, which appears to have been averted for now:

A Finance Ministry decree limited cash withdrawals to no more than 300 euros per day and banned the cashing of cheques. The island’s central bank will review all commercial transactions over 5,000 euros and scrutinize transactions over 200,000 euros on an individual basis. People leaving Cyprus may take only 1,000 euros with them.

Economists predict that the controls, which the Cyprus government said will stay in place for one week, will be difficult to lift as the Cypriot economy continues to decline. They fear the creation of a second-class ‚ÄúCyprus euro,‚ÄĚ which would render the currency less valuable on the island than in throughout the rest of Europe. It is unusual for depositors to bear such losses due to a bailout, but the EU and IMF decided that Cyprus could not afford an alternative plan. The Cyprus stock exchange remained closed on Thursday.

U.S. flies bomber planes over South Korea in demonstration of force. The U.S. flew two Stealth bombers over South Korea today after North Korea shut down its third and final hotline for communication with the South on Wednesday:

“This mission by two B-2 Spirit bombers assigned to 509th Bomb Wing…demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” the United States Forces in Korea said in a statement. North Korea has put its armed forces on readiness to fight what it says are “hostile” war drills by the United States and South Korea. The U.S. says the annual drills are defensive.

The drill is likely to further anger North Korea, which threatened the U.S. and South Korea after the U.N. imposed heightened sanctions on Pyongyang. An armed border remains open, allowing South Koreans to travel to a joint industrial project that generates $2 billion a year in trade revenue for the North.

Britain investigates suspicious death of Russian oligarch. British police said during an inquest today that they cannot rule out foul play in relation to the death of Boris Berezovsky, whose body was discovered in a locked bathroom in his luxury mansion in Ascot on Saturday. An autopsy revealed that he was hanged:

¬†Police have said there was no sign of a struggle and that the 67-year-old’s death was “consistent with hanging”, suggesting that he probably killed himself. Asked however whether any third-party involvement was possible, Detective Inspector Mark Bissell told the inquest: “That cannot be completely eliminated.” But he added that at this stage there was nothing to support that suspicion.

The Russian oligarch is credited with launching Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political career before becoming his enemy in later years. Berezovsky survived an assassination attempt in 1994 and fled to London in 2000 after his relationship with Putin soured, where he ultimately received asylum because he feared for his life if he returned to Russia. Some of Berezovsky’s associates could not believe that the boisterous tycoon would take his own life, although they hinted he suffered from depression since he lost a $6 billion court case in 2006 and was forced to pay a massive divorce settlement in 2011. Toxicology tests are underway.

Nota Bene: Photos show masked revelers celebrating Holy Week in Spain, Costa Rica, the Philippines and the Czech Republic.

Standouts:

No cartoon concession - The editor of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French weekly criticized for publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, says he’s just trying to break taboos. (The Los Angeles Times)

Prisoners get papal foot wash - Pope Francis will wash the feet of young criminals in a detention center on Thursday, as per tradition. (BBC)

First dummy in space - Ivan Ivanovich, a mannequin, paved the way for Yuri Gagarin’s mission to space. (The Atlantic)

Google maps nuclear ghost town  - Google released images taken by Google Street View in Fukushima, Japan. (CNN)

Omnishambles - Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon warns that Cyprus’s controls are likely to be less temporary than hoped. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • Hollande to fight for his political life in TV interview
  • South Africa’s Mandela back in hospital with lung infection
  • Turkey denies mass deportation of Syrian refugees
  • Portuguese government may teeter if court blocks austerity
  • Oscar Pistorius granted permission to travel abroad

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