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Switzerland joins EU sanctions on Russia, breaking neutral posture

Switzerland is ditching its deep-rooted tradition of neutrality and adopting the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The move, which was announced by Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, is significant since Swiss banks include Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin among their clients. Switzerland plans to immediately freeze the assets of Putin; his prime minister, Mikhail V. Mishustin; Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and 367 other individuals who were personally sanctioned by the EU last week. “Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with Ukraine and its people; it will be delivering relief supplies for people who have fled to Poland,” the government said, renewing its offer to mediate in the dispute. The government said it would not maintain its traditional neutrality in the face of “the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state.” Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, has also moved to shutter its air space to Russian planes. Lavrov was scheduled to traveled to Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, but the flight ban prompted him to cancel the trip, according to the Russian mission to the UN. Russian entities have parked an estimated $11 billion in Swiss banks, according to data from 2020, according to The New York Times. Initially, the Swiss were reluctant to go along with European sanctions against the Kremlin for fear it would damage its reputation as a neutral arbiter of diplomatic affairs. But fierce anti-Russian sentiment triggered by the images of Russian bombardment of Ukraine and the humanitarian disaster that followed forced the government’s hand. “There has been no provocation which could have justified such an intervention,” Cassis said.

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