Switzerland on Monday announced that it would keep
aside its vaunted “Swiss neutrality” motto to impose sanctions on Russia for
invading Ukraine, Swiss Federal President Ignazio Cassis said Monday, in a
sharp deviation from the Alpine country’s traditions. Switzerland also froze
Russian assets in line with those sanctions already adopted by the European
, he added.

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“The Swiss Federal Council has decided today to
fully adopt EU sanctions,” Cassis said during a news briefing. “It is an
unparalleled action of Switzerland, who has always stayed neutral before.”

“Russia’s attack is an attack on freedom, an attack
on democracy, an attack on the civil population, and an attack on the
institutions of a free country. This cannot be accepted regarding international
law, this cannot be accepted politically, and this cannot be accepted morally,”
Cassis added.

Switzerland has also decided to close its airspace
to all flights from Russia, including private jets, with the exception of
humanitarian flights, search flights and emergency situations.

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“In view of Russia’s continuing military
intervention in Ukraine, the Federal Council took the decision on February 28
to adopt the packages of sanctions imposed by the EU on February 23 and
25,” the government said in a statement.

Financial sanctions on Putin, Lavrov

Switzerland also imposed financial sanctions against
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov, effective immediately, it said.

“Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with
Ukraine and its people; it will be delivering relief supplies for people who
have fled to Poland,” the government said, renewing its offer to mediate
in the dispute.

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‘Dark days’

Switzerland had walked a tortuous line between
showing solidarity with the West over what it calls Moscow’s severe breach of
international law and maintaining the traditional neutrality that it says could
make it a potential mediator.

But it faced growing pressure to side clearly with
the West against Moscow and adopt punitive sanctions.

Speaking after an extraordinary meeting of the Swiss Federal Council, Cassis stressed that “in these dark days,” Switzerland stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and hopes that sanctions will encourage the Kremlin to “change its mind.”

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“To play into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral. Having signed the Geneva convention of human rights, we are bound to humanitarian order,” Cassis said. “Other democracies shall be able to rely on Switzerland; those standing for international law shall be able to rely on Switzerland; states that uphold human rights shall be able to rely on Switzerland.”