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Swiss mull sanctions over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine

Demonstrators march in Odessa, Ukraine, on Sunday, marking the date on which, eight years ago, more than a hundred people were killed during Ukraine's Maidan revolution. Waving national flags and placards with slogans such as 'No Putin, No Cry', they said they had come out to demonstrate against a potential Russian invasion and that they were prepared to defend their city if needed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

The Swiss foreign ministry has accused Russia of breaking international law and violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty after Moscow ordered troops into breakaway regions.

This content was published on February 22, 2022 - 17:45
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“Switzerland is very concerned about the situation in eastern Ukraine, the rising tensions on the Ukrainian border and the risk of a potential military escalation,” said Livia Leu, state secretary in the foreign ministry, on Tuesday.

She said the Russian ambassador to Switzerland had been summoned to the foreign ministry, while Moscow was urged to uphold international obligations.

Leu said international law and a peaceful solution to the long-standing conflict in the region had absolute priority for Switzerland, which would not recognise the self-proclaimed independence of the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

On Monday Russia announced it recognised the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states after they broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014.

Good offices

Switzerland was offering its good offices and would work within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Leu told a news conference.

“We continue our dialogue with both sides,” she said.

Leu said Switzerland’s participation in an OSCE observer mission in the conflict region would be maintained and the foreign ministry was considering sending additional staff to the Vienna-based OSCE.

The announcements came in the wake of an initial foreign ministry tweet on Monday.

Possible measures

The Swiss government is due to discuss possible measures against Russia at a meeting on Wednesday.

Leu said Switzerland was liaising with other countries but would not act immediately.

She said the government would analyse the situation “taking into account economic, legal and humanitarian aspects” if other Western nations agreed to impose sanctions on Russia.

Based on Swiss legislation, several business activities of Russian citizens have been banned, the Keystone-SDA news agency said.

In 2014 neutral Switzerland did not adopt European Union sanctions against Moscow for annexing Crimea, instead implementing its own measures designed to keep the country and its financial centre from being used to circumvent EU measures.

However, Switzerland is obliged under international law to apply measures imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Swiss expats

There are currently at least 340 registered Swiss citizens, including non-Swiss family members, in Ukraine. About ten of them are known to be in the conflict region, said Hans-Peter Lenz of the foreign ministry’s crisis management centre.

Lenz also said the Swiss embassy and consular services in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, were open but had reduced their staff as security had been boosted.

The foreign ministry has advised against travelling to Ukraine and urged Swiss citizens in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions to leave temporarily.

Swiss International Air Lines suspended flights to Ukraine earlier this week.

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