Switzerland gives up neutrality on Russia, Japan joins Russian sanctions

Switzerland gives up neutrality on Russia, Japan joins Russian sanctions
Swiss President Ignazio Cassis
By bne IntelliNews March 1, 2022

Switzerland will adopt all the European Union sanctions on Russian nationals and companies for the military invasion of Ukraine, in sharp deviation from the traditional neutral position of the country, according to the February 28 statement of President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

As detailed by bne IntelliNews, the EU expanded sectoral sanctions on Russia, closed its airspace to Russian aircraft, and issued an additional sanction list of 26 Russian nationals, including prominent oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We are in an extraordinary situation where extraordinary measures could be decided," Cassis said, as cited by Reuters. Reuters reminds that Switzerland steered clear of imposing sanctions when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Now Switzerland has adopted financial sanctions against President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, effective immediately, and closed its airspace to most Russian aircraft. 

Berne will also ban five oligarchs close to Putin from entering the country, without specifying which.

Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said that Switzerland's financial centre could easily absorb the impact of sanctions on Russia. "It is often bandied about that Russia is the most important financial centre for Switzerland, but it is not; it is rather a minor player," Maurer said, as cited by Reuters.

Russians held nearly CHF10.4bn ($11.3bn) in Switzerland in 2020, Reuters wrote citing Swiss National Bank data.

In a separate announcement Japan said that it will sanction and freeze assets of President Putin, ex-Prime Minister and the deputy head of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Sergei Lavrov, as well as Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the head of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, and the head of the Central Military Command Valery Gerasimov.

Japan will also sanction 49 Russian military-related companies, agencies and institutions.
Among others, those include aircraft building and shipbuilding industries, such as Admiralty Shipyards, Irkut Corporation, Sukhoi, Kazan Helicopter Plant, UAC, OSK, MiG Corporation and Tupolev. 

In addition, Japan has sanctioned defence and security agencies such as the Ministry of Defence, including all units within the Russian Armed Forces, the Federal Security Bureau, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Rosoboronexport military exports agency, Oboronprom military industry agency and others.

The EU has previously said that it had Japan's backing for excluding a "selected number" of Russian banks from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication).