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UKRAINE

Swiss slap sanctions on luxury exports to Russia

Switzerland on Friday adopted the EU'ss anctions on exporting luxury goods to Russia imposed over the Kremlin's war in Ukraine, acknowledging that some Swiss companies could be badly hit.  

Swiss slap sanctions on luxury exports to Russia
A picture taken on January 18, 2018 shows watches by Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre, owned by the Richemont group, displayed during the 28th International Fine Watchmaking Exhibition SIHH, in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The European Union imposed a fourth wave of sanctions on Tuesday, which Switzerland said it would match.  

Switzerland is not in the EU and has a long-standing tradition of neutrality on matters of war, but nonetheless has been aligning itself with waves of EU sanctions imposed following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. 

 

The new measures “will come into force within the next few days”, the Swiss government said in a statement.  

“The ban on the export of luxury goods contained in the new sanctions affects only a small portion of Switzerland’s global exports of such goods. However, specific companies could be seriously affected,” Bern admitted.  

Watchmaking is the wealthy Alpine nation’s third-largest export sector, though far behind the giant pharmaceutical sector.  

Russia is the 17th-biggest export market for Swiss watch manufacturers, amounting to 260 million Swiss francs ($280 million, 250 million euros) last year, according to statistics from the watch industry federation, representing around one percent of total Swiss watch exports.

However, exports only give a partial indication of watch sales to wealthy luxury watch lovers, who often splash out during tourist trips to Switzerland.  

Rich Russians are among the chief watch enthusiasts, with President Vladimir Putin himself regularly seen wearing prestigious Swiss brands on his right wrist.  

Even before the sanctions, several major Swiss brands including Rolex had already halted their exports to Russia.  

Last week, the Swatch group, which owns of Tissot, Omega and Breguet, closed its stores in Russia, having already suspended its exports the week before.  

Luxury goods giant Richemont, owner of jewellery house Cartier and luxury watches such as IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre, also suspended operations in Russia from March 3.  

The EU’s list of targeted products bans the export of champagne as well as cigars, perfumes, watches, jewellery, yachts and luxury sedan cars. 

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POLITICS

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.

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