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Cyprus protesters stage noisy march against bailout


A noisy crowd of about 1,500 staged a march through Nicosia on Wednesday to protest a eurozone bailout deal which delivers a major hit to big bank depositors and will see thousands left jobless.

Led by the opposition communist Akel party, protesters waved Cyprus and communist flags as they punched their fists in the air and chanted angry slogans against the "troika" which demanded the severe restrictions, the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Banners read "No to troika, no to unemployment", "The memorandum does not save but destroys", and "Yes to dignity and development".

As they marched on the presidential palace, the protesters chanted "Troika out of Cyprus", substituting the word "Troika" for "Turkey" in a chant Greek Cypriots traditionally use to condemn the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island.

As the protest grew in numbers and volume, they chanted "EU and troika are strangling the people."

"I'm worried about my pension and, as for the future, it is in trouble, sure," said Andreas Pepetas, 65, an unemployed man among the protesters. "Nobody knows what the troika will want next."

"How are we going to live in this country?" asked 25-year-old Maria, another jobseeker, who declined to give her surname.

"Until two weeks ago, everything was clear. We were not informed of what was coming. Not by our politicians, not by anybody."

The bailout involves the restructuring of the Bank of Cyprus, the country's largest lender, and the eventual winding down of Laiki, or Popular Bank, the number two bank.

Finance Minister Michalis Sarris said on Wednesday Laiki depositors faced losses of up to 80 percent on deposits of more than 100,000 euros. Bank of Cyprus savers have already been warned they stand to lose 40 percent.

The protest came amid reports Cyprus is also to impose unprecedented money controls to avert a run on the island's shuttered banks when they reopen following the controversial international bailout.

Turmoil deepened with the sacking of the chief executive of the troubled Bank of Cyprus by the governor of the central bank, reportedly on the orders of the international lenders behind the deal.

Akel's Demetris Christofias was president for five years until conservative Nicos Anastasiades was elected last month, and it was he who first sought a bailout in June, before balking at tough terms proposed by the troika.