Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

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

President Ignazio Cassis said Switzerland will join the EU in imposing sanctions on Russia. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

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.”

“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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Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Allies of Ukraine meeting in Switzerland were due Tuesday to adopt a declaration spelling out the principles and priorities of rebuilding the war-shattered country, estimated to cost at least $750 billion.

Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and businesses have been meeting in the southern Swiss city of Lugano under tight security since Monday, discussing the best path forward for reconstruction, even as Russia’s war continues to rage in Ukraine.

‘A beautiful country’: How Ukrainian refugees see Switzerland

Speaking on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a long line of government ministers described the massive destruction caused by Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation,” Zelensky said via video message. “It is a common task of the whole democratic world,” he said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the recovery “is already estimated at $750 billion”. “The key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” he said.

“The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it”.

READ MORE: Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

The conference, which had been planned before the invasion, had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on recovery.

Shmyhal laid out the government’s phased reconstruction plan, focused first on the immediate needs of those affected by the war, followed by the financing of thousands of longer-term reconstruction projects aimed at making Ukraine European, green and digital.

Those priorities are expected to be reflected in a final Lugano Declaration setting out the general principles defining a framework for rebuilding Ukraine, which should be adopted when the conference wraps up around midday Tuesday.

As billions of dollars in aid flow into Ukraine, lingering concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean far-reaching reforms will also be seen as a condition for any recovery plan decided.

The former Soviet state has long been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.

In Europe, only Russia and Azerbaijan ranked worse.

The Ukrainians have proposed that allied countries “adopt” specific regions of Ukraine, and lead the recovery there to render it more efficient. Britain has proposed taking on the Kyiv region, while a diplomatic source said France would concentrate on the heavily-hit Chernihiv region.

Total Resistance: The Swiss Cold War manual inspiring Ukraine’s fight against Russia

In all, around 1,000 people are attending the conference, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who let out an enthusiastic “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine) after insisting on the importance of rebuilding a Ukraine better than before the war.