Switzerland has inaugurated a new embassy in Moscow. The CHF42 million ($42 million) building brings together various agencies that promote Swiss interests abroad.
The new embassy in the Russian capital external linkis one of Switzerland’s largest diplomatic representations overseas and reflects the importance of relations between the two countries, according to the foreign ministry.
The inauguration on Tuesday evening – the start of a three-day celebration with 800 guests - was attended by Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
The new embassy consists of two buildings, an existing structure from the 19th century that was too small for diplomatic staff and officials, and a new building, designed by the Lausanne architects Brauen and Wälchli.
To ensure greater synergies, the embassy will bring together under one roof the diplomatic and consular service, the Swiss Business Hub, the culture service Pro Helvetia, Switzerland Tourism and the ambassador's residence.
There are currently around 70 diplomatic staff working at the embassy, including 31 Swiss nationals. The current ambassador is former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Yves Rossier, who has been in Moscow since December 2016.
Building work was initiated before the Ukraine crisis broke out in 2013. Its completion follows strained relations last year between Switzerland and Russia after a series of revelations of alleged spying by Russians in Switzerland, which Moscow denied. At a press conference in Geneva last November, Cassis and Lavrov said pragmatic talks had ironed out problems.
On Tuesday, Rossier told Swiss public radio, RTS, that the spying affair had been resolved, and suggested that the new embassy was not linked in any way to current affairs.
“When you build an embassy, it's an embassy for a country. It is not an embassy for a government that heads that country at a specific moment in history. This embassy is here to stay 100, maybe 200 years. It does not reflect the state of relations or opinions on how the country is managed at a particular time," the Swiss diplomat commented.