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How Europe reacted to Switzerland's historic sanctions announcement

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
How Europe reacted to Switzerland's historic sanctions announcement
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Notoriously neutral Switzerland decided on Monday to impose sanctions on Russia. European leaders lauded the decision, saying would help weed out the corruption and dark money.

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Traditionally neutral Switzerland will adopt all the sanctions already imposed by the EU on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including against President Vladimir Putin, Bern said Monday.

"This is a big step for Switzerland," Swiss President Ignazio Cassis told a press conference, after the Alpine nation had for days hesitated over whether to join the international move to sanction Moscow over the attack on its neighbour.

As the European Union last week slapped Russia with biting sanctions after it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Bern only said it would ensure that those penalties could not be circumvented via Switzerland.

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

But following a government meeting Monday, Switzerland announced it was now fully onboard with the sanctions.

"Switzerland will implement the sanctions in coordination with the EU," the government, known as the Federal Council, said in a statement, adding that these were "primarily goods and financial sanctions". But they also included the freezing of the assets of persons and companies.

In particular, the government said Switzerland would with "immediate effect" impose the sanctions already imposed by the EU on Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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'Very good news'

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell hailed Monday's decision, saying it was "very good news" that Switzerland would "fight against corruption and the dark money... of the oligarchs who support Putin and who are being targeted by sanctions."

"Without the participation of Switzerland, our measures would have been not as effective as needed," he told reporters.

Russia may only rank 23rd on Switzerland's list of trading partners, but the Alpine country's banks are often favoured by Russia's ultra-rich.

According to statistics from the Bank for International Settlements, Swiss banks had in the third quarter last year some $23 billion in Russian holdings, mostly from deposits.

The majority of Russia's oil business passes through Switzerland, while its cereals and metals are also traded in Geneva.

Before shifting its approach, Bern said it had carefully considered "Switzerland's neutrality and peace policy considerations", but that "Russia's unprecedented military attack on a sovereign European country was the deciding factor".

Bern stressed though that it remained willing to "actively contribute to a solution to the conflict through its good offices".

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland always neutral?

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