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Military justice investigates Swiss fighters in Ukraine

Masked fighter in Ukraine
Volunteer soldiers train outside Kyiv in August 2022 Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Swiss military justice has opened several criminal proceedings against Swiss nationals in connection with the war in Ukraine. The people concerned are suspected of having taken part in the conflict as volunteer fighters or mercenaries.

Seven proceedings are currently underway, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA on Thursday, confirming a report in newspaper BlickExternal link.

All seven proceedings were reportedly initiated after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine a year ago. They concern the suspicion of performing foreign military service.

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Under Swiss military criminal law, foreign service – such as being a mercenary – can be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine. However, it is uncertain whether the proceedings will ever be concluded. Investigations are very difficult in the case of a country at war, according to the military justice.

Another hurdle is that the people concerned must be granted the right to be heard, said spokesman Florian Menzi. “Somehow, a person must be able to defend themself.” If the suspects do not return to Switzerland or at least the EU, it will be difficult, he said.

Even before the Russian invasion in February 2022, the military justice system had initiated three proceedings in connection with Ukraine. A young man from Ticino was fined and given an additional conditional fine. He had joined pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region in 2015. Another case was dropped; one is pending.

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