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Russia summons Swiss envoy over Ukraine funding plans

Moscow has strongly protested Bern’s decision to develop a legal basis for using its frozen funds to aid Kiev

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Switzerland’s ambassador to Moscow, Krystyna Marty Lang, on Tuesday to protest Bern’s moves towards allowing the use of frozen Russian central bank reserves to fund Ukraine. 

Switzerland has more than $8 billion of Russian state reserves frozen in its financial institutions. The country’s parliament last week voted 21-19 with three abstentions in favor of a series of motions authorizing the government to work on creating a reparations mechanism under international law.

“Russia strongly condemns this step by the Swiss authorities, which grossly violates the fundamental principles and norms of international law regarding state immunity,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, warning that “any encroachment on Russian state property under the guise of any far-fetched ‘reparations mechanism’ would be nothing more than theft at the state level.” 

Despite not being a member of any international blocs such as the EU or NATO and considering itself a neutral state, Switzerland has nevertheless supported the West’s Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

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In addition to the frozen Russian central bank reserves, the Swiss government also froze billions of dollars’ worth of Russian funds and assets owned or controlled by sanctioned persons, companies or entities. The Swiss Bankers Association estimated that in March 2022, Russian clients held approximately 150 billion Swiss francs ($170 billion) in banks in Switzerland. The country has long been a favored destination for wealthy Russians and their assets.

The Swiss government previously said that it was closely following EU discussions about the prospect of seizing frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine. Swiss bankers have warned that the measure would risk breaking national laws and would jeopardize the country’s reputation as a global financial center.

Russia has repeatedly called the freezing of its assets unlawful. The Foreign Ministry warned on Tuesday that Moscow would retaliate if the Swiss went ahead with plans to confiscate the frozen reserves.

 

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