Switzerland Sanctions Putin, Adopts EU Freeze on Russian Assets

Switzerland Sanctions Putin, Adopts EU Freeze on Russian Assets
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. - The UN Human Rights Council voted to hold an urgent debate about Russia's deadly invasion of Ukraine at Kyiv's request, amid widespread international condemnation of Moscow's attack. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Autumn Spredemann

Switzerland on Feb. 28 chose to throw its weight behind sanctions the European Union imposed on Russia last week in a dramatic departure from the country’s neutral stance on conflicts between nations.

The Swiss government adopted the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Feb. 23 and 25, freezing the assets of a number of people and companies, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The EU sanctions, now adopted by Switzerland, targeted members of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation and members of the Russian State Duma who supported the nation’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics.

The EU also applied restrictions to paralyze Russian finance, energy, transport, and technology sectors.

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said the financial restrictions will be implemented with immediate effect. Finance Minister Ueli Maurer added that Switzerland supports the international decision to cut off Russian banks from the global SWIFT bank messaging system.

“Playing into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral,” Cassis said.

Russian assets held in Swiss banks account for $11.24 billion according to 2020 Swiss National Bank data.

Cassis added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an attack on a free country’s sovereignty, freedom, populations, and institutions.

On Feb. 27, Cassis had announced a Federal Council meeting with seven members of the nation’s government that would review recommendations by the ministries of finance and economics before making a decision.

The Minister of Justice Karin Keller-Sutter said that Switzerland also imposed travel bans on five oligarchs believed to belong to Putin’s entourage.

Switzerland had until Feb. 28 held off on imposing sanctions on Russia, including during the controversial Crimea conflict in 2014.

Over the past week, Russia has responded to U.S. and European economic penalties with aggressive language. On Feb. 23, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said Americans would “feel the consequences” of President Joe Biden’s restrictions.

Responding to the sanctions the European Union (EU) imposed, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement the following day saying, “No one authorized the EU to address the problems of war and peace in Europe.”

Moreover, the declaration promised “tough response measures.”

Defence Minister Viola Amherd said Switzerland is preparing for retaliation from Russia. “Specifically, we’re thinking of areas such as energy supply, refugee flows, and cyber-attacks.”

Russian threats aside, the Swiss government was undeterred in its decision.

“The defense of peace and security and respect for international law are values that Switzerland, as a democratic country, shares with its European neighbors,” Cassis said.

In addition to supporting EU economic sanctions, the Swiss president announced on Feb. 28 a shipment of 25 tons of relief supplies to be sent to Warsaw, Poland, over the next 48 hours to help with the escalating Ukraine refugee crisis in Eastern Europe.

The shipment includes medical equipment and volunteers with the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit.

Autumn is a South America-based reporter covering primarily Latin American issues for The Epoch Times.
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