Switzerland Adopts Same Sanctions As EU Against Russia

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis delivers a speech at the opening of a session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 28, 2022 in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

Traditionally neutral Switzerland will adopt all the sanctions already imposed by the EU on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including against President Vladimir Putin, Bern said Monday.

“This is a big step for Switzerland,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis told a press conference, after the neutral Alpine nation had for days hesitated over whether to join the international move to sanction Moscow over the attack on its neighbour.

As the European Union last week slapped Russia with biting sanctions after it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Bern initially said only that it would ensure that those penalties could not be circumvented via Switzerland.

But following a government meeting Monday, Switzerland announced it was now fully onboard with the sanctions.

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“Switzerland will implement the sanctions in coordination with the EU,” the government, known as the Federal Council, said in a statement, adding that these were “primarily goods and financial sanctions.”

But they also included the freezing of the assets of persons and companies.

In particular, the government said Switzerland would with “immediate effect” impose the sanctions already imposed by the EU on Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

– ‘Responsible’ –

“In so doing, Switzerland is responding to the serious violations of international law for which these individuals are responsible,” it said.

The announcement came as Russia’s mission in Geneva announced that Lavrov, who had been scheduled travel to the Swiss city on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, had been forced to cancel his trip due to the “anti-Russian sanctions” imposed by EU countries.

The Swiss government said Monday that it would also close Swiss airspace to all flights from Russia and to all movements of aircraft with Russian markings, except for flights for humanitarian, medical or diplomatic purposes.

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter meanwhile told reporters that five oligarchs close to the Russian president and who had strong ties to Switzerland had been banned from entering the country.

And Bern said it had decided to partially suspend a 2009 agreement on visa facilitation for Russian nationals, although holders of diplomatic passports would still be permitted to enter Switzerland without a visa.

READ ALSO: IOC Withdraws Top Olympic Honour From Putin

Switzerland had come under increasing pressure to get in line with the EU and US sanctions against Russia, with nearly all political parties backing the move.

And on Saturday, as many as 20,000 demonstrators marched in Switzerland in solidarity with Ukraine, with many loudly calling on Bern to impose sanctions.

Before shifting its approach, the government said it had carefully considered “Switzerland’s neutrality and peace policy considerations”, but that “Russia’s unprecedented military attack on a sovereign European country was the deciding factor.”

Bern stressed though that it remained willing to “actively contribute to a solution to the conflict through its good offices.”

It also said Switzerland would deliver 25 tonnes of relief supplies to Poland within coming days to help people in need in neighbouring Ukraine.

AFP

Ignazio Cassis Elected As Next Swiss President

Swiss FM Ignazio Cassis attends a press conference following his election as new Swiss President by the Federal Assembly in Bern, on December 8, 2021. – Cassis will take over the country’s rotating one-year presidency in 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis was elected by parliament Wednesday as the country’s next president, set to lead in 2022 amid deepening tensions over the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cassis, who will take on the largely symbolic role on January 1, insisted in his acceptance speech that “we will not allow ourselves to be divided”.

The choice of Cassis came as no surprise since it was his turn among the seven members of the Swiss government to take on the rotating one-year presidency.

The 60-year-old member of the conservative Liberal Party, who joined the government in 2017, will continue serving as Switzerland’s top diplomat while carrying out his presidential duties.

He will replace Economy Minister Guy Parmelin at the helm.

Cassis was elected with 156 out of 197 possible votes — a relatively poor score for the foreign minister, who has faced significant criticism for gaffes and inconsistent messaging.

Both he and Parmelin have been attacked for the handling of Switzerland’s relations with the European Union, after Bern in May abruptly ended years of talks aimed at sealing a cooperation agreement with Brussels.

As president, Parmelin delivered the bad news, but Cassis was widely blamed in the media for the debacle and accused of minimising the fallout from the rift with the country’s biggest trading partner.

During Wednesday’s rubber-stamp vote, the parliament also elected Health Minister Alain Berset to serve as vice president next year, positioning him to become president in 2023.

As the main face of Switzerland’s Covid response, Berset has faced widespread abuse by those opposed to measures and restrictions, and has even faced death threats.

Opponents slammed a requirement to present a so-called Covid certificate to enter many public venues, claiming it created an “apartheid” system.

They triggered a referendum last month against the law behind the pass, but following a tense campaign marked by unprecedented levels of hostility in the usually tranquil country, 62 percent of voters came out to support it.

Cassis voiced optimism Wednesday that the divisions could be healed, insisting the Swiss could rise to the challenge and would find themselves “stronger and more united than ever.”

A medical doctor by training, Cassis will be only the fifth politician from Switzerland’s Italian-speaking minority to serve as president.