Pressure mounts for Swiss to freeze Russian assets

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

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

A full 57 percent 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 percent of those questioned favoured cutting ties between Switzerland's famous banks and their Russian counterparts.

And the same percentage backed tighter Swiss sanctions against Russia, even if it hit energy provision and led to significantly higher energy 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. It has nevertheless been aligning itself with the waves of EU sanctions imposed following Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Switzerland has frozen the equivalent of 5.75 billion Swiss francs ($6.2 billion) 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 advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Swiss tabloid 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 Rodyansky has insisted that this is not enough.

"Switzerland must, like other countries, actively search for assets," he said, stressing 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 meanwhile said Monday it would reduce its exposure in Russia, which it said earlier this month stood at over $900 million at the end of last year. It vowed not to take on any fresh business in the country.

Switzerland's second largest bank also told AFP in an email that some of its Russia-based staff were being relocated out of the country.

And it added, "We are helping our clients to unwind their Russia exposure."

AFP

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