Switzerland's historic neutrality is no longer: moments ago Reuters reported that the Swiss government had joined the EU in adopting sanctions on Russia, freezing assets of targeted companies and people effective immediately:
- SWISS GOVERNMENT SAYS ADOPTS EU SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA
- SWISS GOVERNMENT SAYS FREEZES ASSETS OF TARGETED PEOPLE AND COMPANIES EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY
- SWISS GOVERNMENT SAYS ADOPTS FINANCIAL SANCTIONS AGAINST PRESIDENT PUTIN AND OTHER RUSSIAN OFFICIALS
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said that adopting the EU sanctions against Russia was a unique, difficult step that required careful consideration. Previously, on Sunday, he said that Switzerland’s neutrality must be preserved and it stood ready to offer its good offices for diplomacy if talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials on the Belarusian border do not succeed, for example by reaching an armistice.
“That does not prevent us from calling a spade a spade,” he said.
Switzerland had walked a tortuous line between showing solidarity with the West and maintaining its traditional neutrality that the government says could make it a potential mediator. But it faces growing pressure to side clearly with the West against Moscow and adopt punitive European Union sanctions. The government had so far said only that it will not let Switzerland be used as a platform to circumvent EU sanctions.
In the biggest peace march in decades, around 20,000 people demonstrated in the capital Bern on Saturday to support Ukraine, some booing the government over its cautious policy.
Cassis said on Sunday that Ukrainians fleeing the conflict would be welcome “for a transitional period, which we hope will be as short a possible.”
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said separately that Switzerland was ready to take in those who need protection and also to support the neighbouring countries affected. “We will not leave people in the lurch,” she said.
The Swiss government last week amended its watchlist to include 363 individuals and four companies that the EU had put on its sanctions list to punish Moscow.
Russians held nearly 10.4 billion Swiss francs ($11.24 billion) in Switzerland in 2020, Swiss National Bank data show.