Why Switzerland refuses to take in injured Ukrainian soldiers

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 19 Jul, 2022 Updated Tue 19 Jul 2022 13:53 CEST
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Switzerland's President and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP)

Despite considerable support for Ukraine and financial sanctions levied against Russia, the Swiss government will not take in and treat injured Ukrainian soldiers. Here’s why.

Swiss government denied NATO’s request to take in Ukrainians injured in the war, Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper revealed on Monday.

The reason for the refusal: neutrality.

READ MORE: Switzerland mulls ‘neutrality referendum’ amid Ukraine backlash

According to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the 1949 Geneva Conventions, key documents in the international law of war, contain a special provision for neutral states.

The provision states that in the event a neutral country treats soldiers wounded in battle, it must ensure that they, “can no longer take part in war operations” — something that Switzerland has no say in.

The FDFA prefers to bring its aid directly to Ukraine, by supporting the hospitals there,  Tages-Anzeiger reported.

READ MORE: NATO in, neutrality out: How the Ukraine invasion impacted Switzerland

The history of Swiss neutrality

Along with cheese, chocolate and watches, neutrality ranks as one of Switzerland’s trademarks. 

While Switzerland is far from the world’s only neutral country, it is perhaps the best-known example. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

Switzerland adopted its position of “perpetual neutrality” after the last war in which it took part ended in 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. 

Throughout world wars and regional conflicts, Switzerland’s neutrality has been frequently tested but has remained a trademark of the Alpine nation’s foreign policy.  

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland always neutral?

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