Demonstrations for peace draw thousands in Swiss cities

Peace demonstrators in Zurich on Saturday. © Keystone / Michael Buholzer

Huge numbers have marched for the second weekend in a row in Swiss cities to protest against the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This content was published on March 5, 2022 - 18:44

The biggest demonstration on Saturday was in the morning in Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest city, where organisers estimated that some 40,000 showed up to march under the slogan of “peace now”.

Trade unions and left-wing parties had called for the demonstration, which made its way – for the most part silently – through the city centre before politicians and civil society representatives took to a stage to speak out against the conflict.

As well as calling for an end to the fighting, and arms control and disarmament, speakers demanded tighter controls within the Swiss commodity trading sector to ensure that the sanctions targeting the Russian economy have a real effect.

Green Party leader Balthasar Glättli said that dependence on Russian imports and energy supplies needed to be tempered: “as long as we continue to get raw materials from Russia, then we have not done everything possible to stop this war”, he said.

Asset hub

Earlier in the day, the Social Democrats published an open letter demanding the Swiss government set up a task force, composed of various ministries, to establish a realistic picture of how active and how much wealth Russian oligarchs hold in Switzerland.

As a key trading hub for Russian raw materials, a wealth management centre for billions in Russian wealth, and as a home to numerous oligarchs, Switzerland has a particular responsibility to ensure it is not contributing to the financing of the war, they said.

Following the sanctions taken by the European Union and Switzerland this week targeting the Russian economy, there has been much speculation in the media about just how much Russian money is in the Alpine nation.

The Swiss National Bank puts the current value of Russian assets in Switzerland at around CHF10 billion ($11 billion). But the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper believes that the true figure, including the assets of five oligarchs targeted by sanctions (who have not been named), could amount to as much as CHF150 billion.

Also on Saturday, around 3,500 people demonstrated in Geneva, 1,500 in St Gallen, and 1,000 in Bern – including the Ukrainian ambassador to Switzerland, who thanked the Swiss population for the widespread solidarity over the past 10 days.

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