Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets

GENEVA — Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian fin...


GENEVA — Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deep-rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for invading Ukraine.

After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as the 367 people sanctioned last week by the European Union.

Switzerland said it was deviating from its usual policy of neutrality due to Russia’s “unprecedented military attack on a sovereign European state”, but expressed willingness to help mediate the conflict . It has also joined its European neighbors in closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, except for humanitarian or diplomatic purposes. But said he would assess on a case-by-case basis whether to join subsequent EU sanctions.

Lavrov, who was due to travel to Geneva on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, will no longer make the trip due to the flight ban, the Russian mission to the United Nations said on Twitter. United Nations in Geneva.

Data from the Swiss National Bank showed that Russian companies and individuals held assets worth more than $11 billion in Swiss banks in 2020. As a global commodity trading hub, the Switzerland is also home to many companies that trade in Russian oil and other commodities.

The decision came amid growing condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which saw thousands of anti-war protesters march through the Swiss capital Bern over the weekend. Protesters chanted an end to “Putin’s war” and criticized the government’s initially cautious response to the crisis.

Switzerland cherishes a reputation for neutrality that has made Geneva the seat of the United Nations and the host of peace talks in numerous conflicts, including the Korean and Vietnam wars. Recently, Geneva hosted last year’s summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin.

Cassis expressed concern that the Alpine nation’s credibility as a neutral diplomatic broker would suffer if it automatically followed suit with EU sanctions. Initially, Switzerland said last week that it would enforce travel bans against Russians on the EU sanctions list and prevent Swiss banks from accepting new Russian funds – but did not cut the individuals’ access to their bank accounts.

Since then, images of Ukrainian civilians bloodied and bomb-damaged apartments stoked popular anger against Russia, Switzerland also took a tougher tone. Cassis told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine was a flagrant violation of international law.

“There was no provocation that could have justified such an intervention,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets
Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets
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