Pressure mounts for Swiss to freeze Russian assets over Ukraine war

Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality during wars, but has aligned itself with sanctions against Russia

Switzerland's second-biggest bank, Credit Suisse, in Zurich. AP

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Most Swiss want their country to freeze more Russian assets over the war in Ukraine, according to a poll published Monday, as Switzerland's second-largest bank decided against new business in Russia.

A full 57 per cent of Swiss people surveyed last week backed freezing assets belonging to high-ranking Russians and Kremlin allies, said the survey by the Link institute.

In the poll of more than 1,200 people, 56 per cent of those questioned favoured cutting ties between Switzerland's famous banks and Russian lenders.

And the same percentage backed tighter Swiss sanctions against Russia, even if it hit energy provision and led to significantly higher prices.

The poll was conducted between March 17 and 21.

Switzerland is not in the EU and has a long-standing tradition of neutrality on matters of war.

But it has been aligning itself with the waves of EU sanctions imposed after Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Switzerland has frozen the equivalent of 5.75 billion Swiss francs ($6.2bn) in Russian assets since the invasion began, a senior Economy Ministry official said last week.

But Kyiv has been pressing Switzerland, a favoured destination for wealthy Russians and their assets, to do more.

"The Russian elite has enormous amounts of money in Swiss banks," Alexander Rodyansky, a close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told Swiss newspaper Blick Sunday.

"For us, it is vital that the Swiss support the global pressure on Russia."

Switzerland has told the country's banks to declare all holdings and accounts of people and entities on the sanctions list, but Mr Rodyansky has insisted that this is not enough.

"Switzerland must, like other countries, actively search for assets," he said, adding that many in the Russian elite "continue to act in the shadows".

"They hide their funds," he said, urging Switzerland to "act more firmly".

Credit Suisse said on Monday that it would reduce its exposure in Russia, which it said earlier this month stood at more than $900 million at the end of last year.

It pledged not to take on any new business in the country.

Credit Suisse also told AFP that some of its Russia-based staff were being relocated out of the country.

"We are helping our clients to unwind their Russia exposure," the bank said.

Updated: March 29, 2022, 3:53 AM
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