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Ukraine summit did not affect Swiss-Russian relations, says Swiss president

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis (centre left) and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal (centre right) at the Ukraine Recovery Conference on July 5, 2022 in Lugano, Switzerland. © Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Last week’s Ukraine Recovery Conference, hosted by Switzerland in the southern city of Lugano, did not have a negative impact on Swiss-Russian ties, according to the Swiss president.

This content was published on July 10, 2022 - 11:55
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“Our position has been clear since we took up European Union sanctions [against Russia]. We have chosen our camp – that of Western values,” Ignazio Cassis told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper on July 10.

He said the Swiss embassy in Moscow had had contacts with the Russian foreign ministry “before, during and after” the two-day Lugano summit aimed at supporting Ukraine with its reconstruction efforts.

“The Russians noted what was going on. It didn’t result in any particular reactions,” said Cassis.

Representatives from over 40 countries and international organisations like the European Investment Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) signed up to the so-called Lugano Declaration – a series of principles to oversee the reconstruction of the war-torn country – at the meeting in the Swiss city that ended on July 5.

Sanctions and protecting power mandate

Neutral Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but it decided to join the 27-nation bloc in imposing six packages of sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This followed pressure from other countries and prompted criticism from Russia.

In March, the Russian authorities placedExternal link Switzerland on a list of 50 countries that have committed “unfriendly actions” against Russia, its companies and citizens, in the wake of economic sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Despite this move, Russia has not called into question Switzerland’s protecting power mandate between Russia and GeorgiaExternal link, said Cassis. As a neutral intermediary, Switzerland has represented the interests of Georgia in Moscow and the interests of Russia in Tbilisi since March 2009. 

Also, Moscow has not rejected a Swiss proposal to assume a protecting power mandate for Ukrainian citizens in Russia, Cassis added. “The Russian authorities are currently analysing it,” he said.

Although it has adopted EU sanctions, Switzerland’s reaction to the war in Ukraine has been nuanced, he insisted. The Swiss authorities have not expelled any Russian diplomats or banned Russian media, unlike other Western countries, he said.

Without giving any details, Cassis acknowledged that opinions on the war in Ukraine differ among the seven-member Federal Council (executive body).

“I am glad about that. Our political system is built on the diversity of opinions,” he told the NZZ am Sonntag paper.

According to recent news reports by the CH-Media group, Sport Minister Viola Amherd wanted to sign an international declaration for the exclusion of Russian officials from international sports federations but her request was allegedly rejected.

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