Swiss tighten Russia sanctions and increase support for refugees

Economics Minister Parmelin (right) says the latest government decision shows Switzerland's willingness to follow the EU sanctions regime against Russia and Belarus. © Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

The Swiss government has adopted a new set of European Union trade and finance sanctions against Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine.

This content was published on April 13, 2022 - 17:04

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin said his ministry also extended travel and financial restrictions on a further 217 individuals, including two daughters of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and 18 entities.

So far about 900 individuals and entities have been placed on the Swiss sanctions list.

Switzerland is thus taking over most of the sanctions decided by Brussels last week as part of a fifth package against Russia and Belarus. However, it is stopping short of applying punitive measures on water and land transport for geographical and practical reasons.

The measures will come into force on Wednesday.

“Our main aim is to prevent the international sanctions being bypassed,” Parmelin told a news conference.

Limited impact

Neutral Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it decided to join the 27-nation bloc at the end of February, following pressure from other countries and prompting criticism from Russia.

Parmelin said the government decision will have an impact on some business sectors in Switzerland, but he acknowledged that the economic importance is limited.

The sanctions include bans on imports of coal, wood, cement, seafood and vodka – considered important sources of revenue for Russia.

Other measures include an export ban on kerosene and other goods that could contribute to strengthening Russia’s robotic and chemical industries, according to a government statement on Wednesday.

Language courses

Meanwhile, the government is to increase its financial support for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

It has decided to contribute CHF3,000 ($3,214) per refugee to pay towards the costs of language courses for people with a special legal status.

The money is destined for the cantonal authorities which are in charge of housing and integrating the more than 30,000 people seeking refuge in Switzerland since the beginning of March.

A majority of the 26 cantons had asked for a higher amount, but the national government argued it wanted to assess the situation before increasing the payments after 12 months.

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