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Weapon exports stopped to country in turmoil

Swiss president and chair of the OSCE, Didier Burkhalter wants the organisation to play an active role in regard to the crisis in Ukraine Keystone

Switzerland is weighing up its options in response to dramatic events in Ukraine over the weekend, which saw Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych dismissed on Saturday. The Swiss have stopped weapon exports to the country and have other possible courses of action.

This content was published on February 23, 2014 - 18:44
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed a report in the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that the decision was recently taken to stop exports of weapons to Ukraine as more and more people were killed in clashes there.

Between 2009 and 2012 Switzerland exported munitions worth more than CHF2 million ($2.25 million) to Ukraine. This included pistols, rifles, submachine guns and ammunition which went to the Ukrainian police and military, as well as private individuals.

No requests to block assets

The foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday that they had not received any requests to freeze assets connected with the outgoing regime in Ukraine.

Since the Arab Spring in 2011, there has been a legal basis for the cabinet to freeze and then recover money in Switzerland connected to dictatorships or autocratic rulers under similar circumstances, if there is no functioning judicial system in the country from which the money originated.

The foreign ministry declined to comment on whether it was currently pursuing this course of action.

The SonntagsZeitung and the NZZ am Sonntag newspapers both drew attention to the potential funds in Switzerland connected to a company owned by the ex-President’s son, Oleksandr Yanukovych, which operates mainly out of Geneva, dealing in coal sales.

International discussions

Swiss president and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Didier Burkhalter, will visit the United States on February 24 with Ukraine high on his agenda.

During a two-day visit he will speak to the United Nations Security Council and US Vice-President Joe Biden and meet with official US bodies with influence within the OSCE.

According to a statement from the foreign ministry, Burkhalter will “reiterate the OSCE's willingness to play an active role with regard to the crisis in Ukraine and provide expertise to support possible solutions”.

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