Switzerland placed on list of ‘enemy nations’ by Russia

Russia has placed Switzerland on a list of ‘enemy nations’, due to the latter’s support of sanction efforts.

Swiss President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The move was announced on Monday, with Russian authorities alleging those placed on the list had committed “unfriendly acts” against it. 

Those placed on the list include all EU countries, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, among others. 

While Russian authorities did not specify exactly why these countries have been placed on the list, experts believe the move comes as a response to western sanctions imposed as a result of the invasion. 

The exact scope and impact of being placed on the list is also relatively unclear, although news agency Interfax reports that anyone in Russia wishing to deal with countries on the list can only do so with government approval. 

“All business and transactions of Russian companies with citizens and companies from countries that are not friendly to Russia are now approved by the government commission for the supervision of foreign investments.”

The practical impact of this is likely to be relatively minimal however, with western companies already pulling out of Russia due to western sanctions. 

Switzerland’s neutrality was questioned after the decision to join the EU’s sanctions effort, although Swiss authorities have repeatedly said the commitment to neutrality is unwavering. 

On Monday, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis dismissed concerns expressed internationally, including by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that western sanctions were a declaration of war. 

“Switzerland is not at war with Russia,” Cassis said.  

International law professor Oliver Diggelmann, from the University of Zurich told The Local that although Switzerland’s announcement was significant, it did not represent an end to Swiss neutrality. 

READ MORE: Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

“Switzerland remains a neutral country,” Diggelmann said. 

“(Neutral) states have a legal obligation, which comes from their status as permanent neutrals, to not participate militarily in an armed conflict between states and to not support a conflict party with arms.”

Diggelmann emphasised that being committed to neutrality did not mean a commitment to doing nothing. 

“Yesterday, the Swiss government recognised that not fully sanctioning such a blatant violation economically would make (Switzerland) an indirect accomplice of the aggressor. It openly positioned itself against a great power, even though only economically, which also marks a cesura in the Swiss political culture.”

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

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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.

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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.

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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.