Switzerland agrees to represent Ukraine within Russia
According to a report by the Luzerner Zeitung, Switzerland and Ukraine have reached an agreement that would allow Ukrainians to use Swiss consulates and embassies in Russia to access key services. The plan was made in secret and now needs the agreement of Russia to come into effect, which as of August 11, has been denied.
Protecting power mandate agreed between Switzerland and Ukraine
On Wednesday, the Luzerner Zeitung reported that officials from the Ukrainian and Swiss governments had agreed to a so-called “protecting power mandate.” The agreement, arranged in secret, would have allowed Ukrainians living in Russia to use consular services provided by the Swiss Embassy in Moscow, services they have been denied in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
According to Swissinfo, ever since the invasion began, officials in Kyiv have encouraged Bern to act as a go-between and letter carrier for the embattled nation. Even after Switzerland imposed sanctions, and Russia labelled the country an “unfriendly” nation, president Ignazio Cassis was quick to offer the country as a site for diplomacy and discussion, which was eventually realised with the conference in Lugano earlier this year.
Switzerland has a long history of being a mediator
The Swiss tradition of neutrality has meant that it has been ideally placed to make similar agreements in the past, most notably with US interests in Iran, Russia and Georgia. Until 2015, Switzerland acted as the sole representative between the US and Cuba, although a similar agreement between the US and Venezuela failed to materialise in 2019.
However, for the plan to be put into action, Russia would have had to agree to it. According to RTS, this already looked fairly unlikely, after the Russian Embassy in Bern told the TV station that it had not received any requests from either government and was not “ready to examine offers of good offices from countries who apply [Western] sanctions” against their country. These words would soon turn into action, with a report from Swissinfo later on August 11 confirming that the Russian government had rejected the plan outright.