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.
“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.
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.