Neutral Switzerland’s response to pressure to apply sanctions to Russia has attracted criticism from abroad. It’s an issue made more complicated by its current role as chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Estonia’s president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, accused Switzerland of acting in its own self-interest. In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, he said: "Switzerland must live with the criticism that it has only dispensed with its own sanctions to gain an advantage for its banking sector".
The Swiss have extended measures to make sure they are not used as a way to sidestep sanctions put in place by the European Union (EU), but, as a global commodity trading and private banking hub popular with Russia’s wealthy elite, they have not introduced specific restrictions against Russia as a whole in response to the country’s actions in Ukraine.
The alpine nation is also under pressure to protect its neutral position when dealing with Russia, due to its role as a mediator during Switzerland’s chairmanship of the OSCE.
Non-EU member Switzerland has however already blacklisted a number of Russian officials and organisations from doing business, primarily with Swiss financial institutions.
Hendrik Ilves commented further that, "The concept of neutrality is for me as empty today as ever before", referencing Sweden and Ireland as two neutral countries who have supported the sanctions. Both are also members of the EU.
The Swiss defence minister Ueli Maurer has called off a visit to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergej Schoigu.
The defence ministry confirmed the cancellation, citing “scheduling difficulties” on both sides. The meeting, which was to be held in Moscow, was originally planned for the start of April, and was then initially postponed after the crisis in Ukraine developed.