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Bern says it cannot confiscate Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine

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Switzerland’s government announced Wednesday that confiscating private Russian assets in the country to help rebuild Ukraine would be contrary to Swiss law.

Traditionally-neutral Switzerland decided four days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 to align itself with the neighboring European Union’s sanctions against Moscow.


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The wealthy Alpine nation has since frozen billions in Russian assets.

Faced with international proposals to confiscate such assets and to use the money to help rebuild Ukraine, Switzerland’s Federal Council, as the government is known, had asked a justice department working group to clarify the legality of such a move.

The group concluded that “the expropriation of private assets of lawful origin without compensation is not permissible under Swiss law,” a government statement said.

“The confiscation of frozen private assets is inconsistent with the Federal Constitution and the prevailing legal order and violates Switzerland’s international commitments.”

The government said it had taken note of the conclusion, stressing that “support for Ukraine will continue, independent of the discussions on frozen assets.”

Bern said it was engaged in other international discussions, including on the possibility to confiscate Russia’s central bank currency reserves and other state assets.

“The introduction of tougher criminal penalties for violating sanctions is also being examined,” it said.

“Switzerland is closely following these proposals and contributes its views to the discussions.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Swiss government’s decision to follow the European Union’s lead on sanctions targeting Moscow have breathed new life into debates around the wealthy Alpine country’s deeply engrained neutrality.

Switzerland’s decision, in the name of its neutrality, to bar several European countries from re-exporting Swiss-made arms to Ukraine, has for instance sparked controversy.

Several initiatives are under way in parliament towards relaxing the re-export rules to make it possible for Swiss war materiel to be transferred via third countries to Ukraine.

But any decision is likely months away.

Read more:

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Germany open to seizing Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine

EU seeks to use frozen Russian funds to rebuild Ukraine

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