The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Switzerland to broker deal in Russia

  • By Paige Baschuk
  • 11 August 2022
Switzerland to broker deal in Russia

Despite their neutrality, Swiss citizens have been outspoken against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the start.

Switzerland will represent Ukrainian interests in talks with Russia, Swiss foreign ministry officials announced Wednesday.

Swiss officials will argue primarily on behalf of protecting Ukrainians living in Russia and the Swiss Embassy in Moscow’s capacity to extend consular services to them, according to Russian media outlet RTS. The two countries completed negotiations on the deal this week, but the details of the agreement will remain secret.

Switzerland to broker deal in Russia

The new Swiss embassy in Moscow opened in 2019 (Yuri Kochetkov).

Moscow not playing ball 

The mandate fits into Switzerland’s long history of neutrality and acting as a diplomatic mediator between warring states; however, Russia must first agree to sit down with Switzerland.

This is “unlikely,” according to RTS. An official from the Russian Embassy in Bern told the Russian media outlet that they are not “ready to examine offers of good offices from countries who apply [Western] sanctions” against it.

Just days after Russia fired its first shots on Ukraine, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Switzerland would follow the European Union in enacting tough sanctions against Russia. Switzerland has since passed several rounds of sanctions barring Russian travelers, Russian imports, Russian gold and freezing Swiss assets of known associates of Russian President Vladmir Putin.

Amid war, Switzerland is pushed to define neutrality

Critics of the Swiss sanctions say the country is taking steps away from neutrality. Proponents say allowing Russian goods and money to pass through Switzerland would be laundering money for Russia’s war efforts.

At any rate, Russian officials say Switzerland has “damaged its neutrality,” and it has been added to Russia’s list of “unfriendly” nations, according to RTS.

Switzerland to broker deal in Russia

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis announced Switzerland’s first round of sanctions against Russia in March.

Ukraine in favor

“Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who were illegally deported from Ukrainian cities and villages temporarily captured by the Russian army need help, including children, and many Ukrainian citizens also found themselves in Russia’s territory without documents,” according to Ukrainian media outlet Ukrinform.

As there are no Ukrainian diplomatic missions in Russia, Ukraine has been keen for months to employ Switzerland for their interests.

“The choice in favor of Switzerland was made because of its extensive experience in performing such functions, and we are grateful to the Swiss government for its willingness to provide its services,” Oleh Nikolenko, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, told Ukrinform.

Nikolenko added that their actions are supported by the Vienna Convention and that he will relay the details of such discussions after they have been completed.

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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