Russians who plan to buy property abroad are most interested in investing in Cyprus and Hungary, Russian media outlet RBC reported on Nov. 22, citing research from real estate agency NF Group.
While Turkey and the United Arab Emirates were the most popular locations in 2022, NF Group noted that Hungary and Cyprus were the most-requested countries by its clients this year.
The company said that 61% of its clients want to buy real estate abroad in order to obtain a residence permit or citizenship in that country.
Hungary is a popular destination for investment due to its relative affordability, the rapid rise of house prices, and the fact that the country offers a route to a five-year residency permit via a property investment of around $234,000.
Western sanctions in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine mean that Russians can only easily enter Europe with a valid residency permit.
Some EU countries, such as Cyprus, issue "golden visas," which allow high-income foreigners to quickly obtain a permanent residency permit if they invest in local real estate.
The Hungarian government stopped issuing "golden visas" in 2017 but announced on Nov. 14 that it plans to relaunch the scheme as a "guest-investor visa," which will give long-term residency permits to those who buy real estate worth over $543,000.
European Commission issued an urgent recommendation in March 2022 that EU member states should put an end to "golden passports" and "golden residence permits."
Russians and Belarusians who are under sanctions or support the war in Ukraine are able to travel freely in the Schengen zone due to these schemes, the European Commission warned.
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told the Associated Press on Nov. 20 that he had invited financial crime experts from an unnamed third-party country to assist with investigations into the use of Cyprus as a means of circumventing sanctions against Russia.
There should be "absolutely no shadows" over Cyprus because it harms the ability to attract "quality" foreign investment, he said.
Christodoulides' comments came after a massive leak of millions of files on Nov. 14 obtained from Cypriot financial service providers, dubbed "Cyprus Confidential," and a subsequent wide-ranging investigation by the International Consortium of Investigate Journalists (ICIJ).
Together, they comprise a complex picture of "how Cypriot financial enablers scrambled to help Russian oligarchs and Putin allies shield their assets and avoid Western sanctions," the ICIJ said.