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Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

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Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland has departed with a decades-old policy of non-intervention in deciding to unequivocally adopt all EU sanctions on Russia.

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The announcement was made at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

In making the announcement, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Switzerland would adhere to all of the EU’s Russia sanctions, including freezing Russian assets and those targeting President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Cassis told the media “this is a major measure by Switzerland… (which) “is being taken with conviction, in a thoughtful and unequivocal manner”. 

Prior to the announcement, critics had lambasted Switzerland for "hiding behind its neutrality" in refusing to go along with the international community's measures. 

UPDATE: How Switzerland could be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

In a statement, Switzerland said Russia's "unprecedented military attack" had forced its hand. 

"Russia's unprecedented military attack on a sovereign European country was the deciding factor in the Federal Council's decision to change its previous stance on sanctions. The defence of peace and security and respect for international law are values that Switzerland, as a democratic country, shares with its European neighbours and supports."

While saying Switzerland was not abandoning its commitment to neutrality, Cassis said "playing into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral."

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"States that uphold human rights should be able to rely on Switzerland," Cassis said. 

"Switzerland stands by Ukraine and its people."

Cassis however reaffirmed Switzerland's desire to play a diplomatic role, for instance in mediation of the parties. 

Geneva: Will Switzerland host a ‘peace’ meeting between Russia and Ukraine?

Swiss airspace has also been closed to Russian flights, other than those with diplomatic and humanitarian purposes. 

A ban on imports or exports to Crimea imposed in 2014 has been extended to the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. 

While Russian citizens are not banned from Switzerland under the measures, five oligarchs with close ties to Putin have been barred from entering the country. 

Cassis denied the EU had put pressure on Switzerland and said the decision not to impose sanctions immediately after the invasion was not a mistake. 

"No one was prepared for the current war. You are in an extraordinary situation in which you have had to make extraordinary decisions.

"Switzerland stands by western values."

On Saturday, as many as 20,000 demonstrators marched in Switzerland in solidarity with Ukraine, with many loudly calling on Bern to impose sanctions.

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland always neutral?

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