– Switzerland is under pressure to chase Russian funds
Ukrainian officials are demanding that Bern and the banks become more active in freezing Kremlin-related assets.
The freezing of Russian assets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the subject of a meeting between Ukrainian and Swiss authorities last Wednesday in Bern. On this occasion, the Ukrainian special representative for sanctions, Oleksii Makeiev, called on Switzerland to take swift measures and “play a more active role in Western sanctions”. In addition to the banking sector, the real estate sector is also affected, he specifies in the “SonntagsZeitung”.
Ukrainians have lists of Russian companies and businessmen who belong to the political apparatus of Putin’s power. “We will ask the Swiss government to examine which properties and bank accounts of these people and their family members can be blocked,” explains Oleksii Makeiev. We’re talking thousands of names here.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Switzerland, Artem Rybchenko, is also calling on Switzerland to become more involved in sanctions against Russian assets. “Russia must not pretend that nothing happened and can simply continue its aggressive war,” said the diplomat in an interview granted to the “SonntagsZeitung”. Switzerland’s task is to uncover and block bogus companies and the assets associated with them.” Ukraine calls for more engagement in finance, energy and banking.
Dozens of spies?
This call follows that of the US Ambassador to Switzerland, Scott Miller. Asked in the “NZZ am Sonntag”, he warns the Swiss banks. They would have to be more active in soliciting funds from Russians sanctioned after the Russian attack on Ukraine, or those who don’t cooperate would face consequences. “The United States does not take this lightly.”
However, given Switzerland’s response to the sanctions against Russia so far, Scott Miller is confident about the future. 7.5 billion francs are already blocked in Switzerland, he notes. The ambassador urges Bern to join the task force set up to search for Russian assets. Washington is ready to offer its support, he adds.
On the diplomatic front, Bern has been accused of not following the lead of France, Germany, the US, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Austria or even Greece. These countries have massively expelled Russian diplomats since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February. In Switzerland, No evictions are currently planned. However, a third of the Russian diplomats accredited by us work for the Russian secret services, reveals the “SonntagsBlick” with reference to the intelligence service of the Confederation (SRK). Around 70 of the 220 Russian diplomats registered in Switzerland are spies.
According to the German-language weekly, Russia could relocate illegal activities to Switzerland or use it as a starting point to circumvent measures taken by other Schengen states.
New round of sanctions
On the European side, the foreign ministers of the European Union are discussing a new package of sanctions against Moscow this Monday in Luxembourg. “We have just imposed severe sanctions on Russia and are preparing for a sixth wave,” announced EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday during her visit to Kyiv.
However, the cessation of oil and gas purchases to no longer fund the Russian war effort divided the Twenty-Seven. A discussion on an oil embargo is being initiated, “but a formal proposal is not on the table,” admitted a senior European official on Friday.
Patrick Moni is deputy editor of the Tamedia editorial team. He has headed the Swiss section since 2018, having been in charge of the news for the French-speaking cantons there since 2012. Born and resident in Valais, he joined the local editorial team of 24heures in 2000, working on the Riviera and inland Chablais.