Neutral Switzerland Not So Neutral on Russia

Nation freezes assets of Putin and Russian oligarchs
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2022 11:30 AM CST
Switzerland Ditches Neutrality, Penalizes Russia
Ukrainian soldiers inspect a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Marienko Andrew)

Switzerland is traditionally, famously, neutral in international conflicts, but not this one. The nation said Monday that it would freeze the assets of Vladimir Putin, other top Russian officials, and nearly 400 individuals, reports the New York Times. In following the European Union's lead on the penalties, Switzerland condemned "the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state." It added, however, that it would be willing to try to mediate the conflict with Ukraine. Reuters notes that Switzerland had faced growing international pressure to join the sanctions.

The Swiss action has the potential to sting because the nation is the most popular banking destination for Russian billionaires, ahead of Britain, Spain, Luxembourg, and the US, reports the AP. "Switzerland has for years been by far the most important destination worldwide for rich Russians to manage their wealth," says a report compiled by the Swiss Embassy in Moscow. But don't count too much on the idea of oligarchs applying pressure to the Russian leader, writes Nicolas Rivero in Quartz: "Russia's elites don't control Putin—they're under Putin's control." (Read more Switzerland stories.)

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