Swiss MPs call for Russian money to be used to reconstruct Ukraine

Members of Swiss parliament from across the political spectrum have called for the billions of frozen Russian assets to be used to rebuild Ukraine.

Switzerland's support of Ukraine cannot include arms or even protective devices.Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Switzerland's support of Ukraine cannot include arms or even protective devices.Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Members of parliament from both left and central-right parties in Switzerland have submitted a motion calling for the government to hand over the frozen assets belonging to Russian oligarchs to Ukraine to be used for the reconstruction of the war-torn country.

“Switzerland is home to an above-average number of sanctioned Russian fortunes”, according to MP Mattea Meyer.

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

“So it is right that this money benefits the country which is currently being destroyed by Putin”.  

Another MP, Andrea Caroni also supports the motion.

“From the point of view of international law, it is clear that Russia owes damages to Ukraine because of its aggression”, he said.

More than 1,000 individuals sanctioned in Switzerland

Neutral Switzerland decided in late February to join the EU sanctions efforts, despite criticism from inside and outside the country. 

Russian assets in Switzerland are estimated to amount to 200 billion francs; Swiss authorities have blocked CHF7.5 billion so far.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland is a magnet for Russian money

More than 1,000 individuals have been sanctioned by the Swiss government as a consequence of the invasion, although not all of those sanctioned are believed to live in Switzerland. 

Switzerland is also under increasing pressure to place sanctions on former Russian gymnast and Swiss resident Alina Kabaeva, who is rumoured to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-time mistress and the mother of four of his children.

According to US news outlet Page Six and British newspaper The Times, Kabaeva lives in a heavily fortified chalet in the Ticino alps in the south of the country. 

UPDATED: Pressure builds on Switzerland to deport ‘Putin’s mistress’

However, US officials said they believed Kabaeva lived “in a high-walled villa with a helipad” in Cologny, an upmarket suburb of Geneva, Swiss news media reports

The sanctions, which were controversially imposed by neutral Switzerland in the days after the Russian invasion, do not only impact the mega rich in Switzerland. 

Ordinary employees of Russian companies hit by sanctions have also had their wages frozen. 

Natalyia, an administrative assistant who wished to remain anonymous, told Watson she and many others had been indirectly impacted by the sanctions. 

“We are Swiss citizens and ordinary employees with ordinary wages, we have families and financial obligations,” Natalyia, who did not want to give her real name, told Watson. 

In April, news emerged that a Russian oligarch in Geneva had applied for social assistance after his assets were frozen. 

READ MORE: Russian oligarch applies for Swiss social assistance due to sanctions

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200,000 in 2022: Immigration fuelling Swiss population surge

Around 200,000 immigrants have moved to Switzerland so far in 2022, pushing the total population close to nine million.

200,000 in 2022: Immigration fuelling Swiss population surge

In January 2022, Switzerland’s population stood at 8.74 million people, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

However, by the beginning of July, 100,000 more people were registered in Switzerland, government data shows.   

This upward trend toward the 9-million mark got a major jolt after February 24th, when Russia invaded Ukraine, causing a massive westward exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the war.

While Ukrainian refugees constitute the bulk — 60,000 people — of this growth spurt, 32,700 immigrants from other countries also came to Switzerland in this period, along with 6,800 asylum seekers.

The 200,000 immigrants is pushing Switzerland’s population close to the nine million mark. While this has not yet been reached, it could potentially be cracked before the end of the year. 

Who exactly are these foreign nationals?

The majority of immigrants currently in Switzerland — as opposed to refugees and asylum seekers — live here permanently or medium /long-term, on either the B or C permit.

They are predominantly citizens of EU / EFTA nations, mainly from Italy, Germany, Portugal and France.

READ MORE: Eight revealing statistics about Switzerland’s foreign residents

While third-nation citizens don’t constitute a large immigrant group because their residence and employment in Switzerland is subject to a quota system, Switzerland also has a sizeable population from Kosovo, as well as from the UK — about 40,000 people for the latter.

As far as asylum seekers are concerned, the additional 6,800 who came to Switzerland this year are, as is the case of nearly 15,000 already here, mostly from Afghanistan, Turkey, Eritrea, Algeria, and Syria.

The Swiss government expects that 80,000 more Ukrainians will come to Switzerland this year.

Taking into account net migration — that is, the difference between immigration and emigration — 60,000 more people will swell the ranks of Switzerland’s population by the end of the year.

This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone presently here or expected to come, will remain in Switzerland long-term.

The government expects Ukrainians to return home once the war is over, though the date of the ceasefire or the number of refugees who will actually go back is hard to predict.

READ MORE: ‘Cruel’ Swiss government video suggests Ukrainians to leave Switzerland

In regards to asylum seekers, statistics indicate that 22 percent of applications are rejected, which means some applicants will not be living here long-term.