Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to fierce fighting in and around several of the country’s largest cities.
According to observers, forces on both sides of the conflict are using Swiss weapons – with the weapons produced by the same manufacturer.
Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass have been seen using Swiss submachine guns so far in the conflict, Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports.
The manufacturer, B&T AG from the town of Thun in the canton of Bern, confirmed the sale of the weapons to Ukraine, saying these were approved by Swiss authorities and were originally delivered in connection with the 2012 European Football Championships.
B&T has also sold MP9 submachine guns to Russian special forces, which have used them since 2015 in the Donbass region.
The owner of the weapons manufacturer, Karl Brügger, has previously come under fire for breaching Switzerland’s War Material Act by selling sniper rifles and grenade launchers which were to be used in Kazakstan.
Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger reports that B&T weapons are likely not the only Swiss arms being used in the conflict.
Over the past 20 years, Ukraine and Russia have bought CHF5.9 million worth of Swiss weapons.
The Swiss government confirmed in an official report that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine bought submachine guns of Swiss origin.
MPs debate the rearmament of Switzerland
After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a number of Swiss politicians and security experts are concerned about the country’s safety and readiness to defend itself.
“Switzerland has woken up from the dream of eternal peace,” said Dominik Knill, president of the Swiss Society of Officers. For security expert Niklas Mashur, Russia’s invasion will influence the debate on increasing defense preparedness and armament budgets.
Among the MPs, some are already calling for more military spending.
“The current situation in Eastern Europe shows that the increase in budget is absolutely necessary”, said Werner Salzmann, chairman of the parliamentary Security Policy Commission.
Another MP, Thomas Hurter, is also pushing not only for a higher budget, but more soldiers as well.
“The army is there to protect and defend the population against possible external attacks. This principle has been too neglected in recent years”, he said.
14th-largest exporter in the world
Switzerland has seen significant increases in weapons exports in recent years.
In 2020, the last year on record, Switzerland exported CHF902 million worth of war material, a 24 percent increase on 2019.
While that may appear significant, it still only represents 0.7 percent of the total global military equipment exports, estimates the Stockholm International Peace Institute.
This made Switzerland the 14th largest exporter of arms in the world.
Efforts to curb Switzerland’s military exports at the ballot box have failed in recent years, with successive referendums thrown out by Swiss voters.