Switzerland triggers wide range of sanctions against Russia

More than a million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Russian invasion. Keystone / Roman Pilipey

Switzerland said it is activating sanctions against Russia on Friday, including a ban on many industrial exports and wide-ranging restrictions on financial activities, which includes cutting Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system.

This content was published on March 4, 2022 - 16:05

The Swiss government also confirmed it is freezing the assets of people and companies with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sanctionsExternal link follow those imposed by the European Union last month and will be active in Switzerland from 6pm on Friday. Switzerland had initially decided to enforce a limited range of sanctions to ensure its neutral status but announced on Monday that it would, after all, follow the lead of the EUExternal link.

“The implementation of these sanctions is compatible with Switzerland’s neutrality. Due consideration is being given to humanitarian activities,” read a statementExternal link.

With more than a million Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country, the government has triggered a special protection status for refugees. Some 320 Ukrainians have applied for protection in Switzerland so far, said Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter.

Exports of material that could boost Russia’s military or technological capabilities are being particularly targeted in the sanctions. This includes technical assistance and financing of such exports.

“The export to Russia of certain goods and services in the oil sector is no longer permitted. Furthermore, the export of certain goods and technology that can be used in aviation and the space industry is prohibited,” the government stated.

Financial exclusion

Banks and other financial companies will face restrictions in the trading of securities, issuing loans or accepting deposits. This includes transactions with the Russian central bank.

Switzerland will also actively support EU measures to cut Russia off from the SWIFT financial messaging system that facilitates financial transactions.

The Swiss Bankers Association has thrown out the Russian Gazprom Bank and Sberbank from its ranks.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a week ago has left thousands dead and has forced more than a million people to flee the country.

The UN Human Rights Council is setting up a commission of inquiry on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law amid reports of cluster bombs being used and widespread condemnation of the bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Energy concerns

At a press conference on Friday, Swiss ministers warned of possible energy shortages as a consequence of the worsening conflict.

“The war highlights the vulnerability of Europe in its dependence on Russian gas,” said Swiss Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.

The government is working with the energy industry to ensure supplies for the coming winter and to gain access to storage facilities outside of the country, she added. 

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