Switzerland to join Europe-wide sanctions on Russia
Switzerland has U-turned on its previous position and has backed sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Switzerland had previously been more cautious in seizing Russian assets, but the country has now fallen in line with the EU.
Switzerland to follow EU's lead on Russian sanctions
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an “attack on sovereignty, freedom, democracy, [and] the population and institutions of a free country.” In justifying Switzerland’s involvement in sanctions despite the country's neutrality, the president asserted that, “Playing into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral.”
Switzerland will now follow the EU’s lead in imposing sanctions. These include blocking the assets of 363 individuals and four international companies, including Prime Minister of Russia, Mikhail Mishustin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. As of Monday, Switzerland will not allow Russian planes to land in Swiss airports or cross Swiss airspace.
Huge pressure exerted on Switzerland to impose sanctions
The move comes amid increased pressure from activists in Switzerland to back sanctions, with 20.000 people coming out in support of Ukraine in a protest in Bern over the weekend. Russia currently has around 10,4 billion Swiss francs stored in the country, in banks and insurance firms, according to the Swiss National Bank.
In addition, the ban on imports, exports and investments from Crimea, instituted in 2014, will now be extended to the Russian-backed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Finance Minister Ueli Maurer was quick to play down any links between Swiss finance and Russia, which he described as “very small.” The Federal Council also agreed to support the move to cut Russian banks off from the SWIFT bank messaging system and has promised 25 tons of humanitarian aid supplies for the Ukrainian-Polish border, where an estimated 150.000 people have fled so far.
Switzerland braces for Russian "retaliatory measures"
Minister for Defence Viola Amherd said that Switzerland was bracing for what she called “retaliatory measures” by Russia. “Specifically, we are thinking of areas such as energy supply, refugee flows and cyber-attacks,” she clarified.
While sanctions were announced, the Swiss government reaffirmed its commitment to peace and hoped to actively contribute to a solution through diplomacy. Plans to hold a peace conference in Geneva remain in place, but this may change depending on the Russian response.