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Swiss freeze nearly 7.5 billion in Russian assets

Switzerland said Thursday that it has to date frozen a total of 7.5 billion Swiss francs in Russian assets, in connection with the sanctions imposed over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Swiss freeze nearly 7.5 billion in Russian assets
UBS and other Swiss banks are not accepting large amounts of money from Russian oligarchs. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The amount, which has been fluctuating for months, is nearly one billion francs more than the figure provided by the State Secretariat for Economic
Affairs (SECO) in July.

Switzerland, a favoured destination for wealthy Russians and their assets, has also seen 15 Russian properties seized, it said.

Erwin Bollinger, in charge of bilateral economic relations at SECO, stressed to reporters that the amount frozen at any given time does not necessarily “reflect the efficacy of the sanctions.”

That is because Swiss authorities seeking to implement the string of sanctions on Russia sometimes freeze assets as a precautionary measure, which may be released again once clarifications have been completed.

Traditionally-neutral Switzerland decided four days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 to align itself with the neighbouring European Union’s sanctions against Moscow, obliging banks to pass on information on clients or firms targeted.

As with their EU counterparts, Swiss banks are banned from accepting deposits from Russian nationals or people or entities based in Russia of more than 100,000 francs, and have been ordered to declare all existing deposits over that amount.

In all, 46.1 billion francs in such deposits have been reported, but SECO stressed that this could “not be equated with the total amount of funds of
Russian origin held in Switzerland.”

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Transfer of Swiss arms to Ukraine ‘should be permitted’, lawmakers say

A Swiss parliamentary commission voted Tuesday to request a change to the country's laws to allow its war material to be transferred via third countries to Ukraine.

Transfer of Swiss arms to Ukraine 'should be permitted', lawmakers say

Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to export it on to war-ravaged Ukraine, in line with its strict
military neutrality.

Under Switzerland’s War Material Act, export requests cannot be approved if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict.

But the parliament’s security policy committee decided Tuesday, with 14 votes in favour and 11 opposed, to back a motion to request a law change to make such transfers possible.

That motion maintained it should be possible to revoke the declarations of non-reexport, which countries purchasing Swiss arms must sign, “in cases where there is a violation of the international ban on resorting to force, and specifically in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war,” the commission said in a statement.

The Swiss government could still decide to continue barring the transfer of Swiss weaponry in cases where a repeal of the non-reexport declaration posed “major” risks to Swiss foreign policy, it said. 

The full parliament will likely need to give its approval before the change can be implemented.

The commission considered two proposals for how to move forward.

One motion involved revoking the non-reexport declaration in cases where at least two-thirds of the United Nations General Assembly determines there has been an illegal use of force.

The second entails an emergency law that would render null and void no-reexport declarations in any case where it is determined the war material
is going to Ukraine in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Such a change should be put in place swiftly, and should remain in place until the end of 2025, the statement said.

“A majority of the commission deemed that Switzerland should contribute to European security, which goes through more significant assistance to Ukraine,” it said.

The statement said a minority of the commission has voiced concern that the transfer of Swiss war material to Ukraine could jeopardise Switzerland’s neutral status.

But the majority had determined that the proposed change could be carried out in compliance with Swiss neutrality, “since it does not permit direct
exports of war material to areas in conflict,” it said.