Swiss parliament demands tougher action against Russian spies

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
3 min read

Swiss lawmakers on Monday called on the government to take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country -- a center of international activity considered a hub for espionage.

After a vote in the lower house of parliament last year, the upper house voted overwhelmingly Monday for the systematic expulsion of spies deemed a threat to Switzerland’s national security or its diplomatic standing.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Thirty-two members voted in favor of the move, with nine against and two abstentions.

The vote targeted what is feared to be a growing number of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

During the debate, parliamentarians highlighted how spies often figure in the diplomatic corps, and can take advantage of diplomatic immunity.

Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.

FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives.

“Switzerland, as the seat of international organisations and a state in the middle of Europe, is an attractive location for intelligence services,” Socialist party lawmaker Roth Franziska said during Monday’s debate.

She pointed to intelligence service estimates that one in five Russian spies in Europe was now believed to be in Switzerland and lamented that “no other country in Europe is now said to host more Russian agents that we do”.

Besides Russia, the FIS said last year it believed China had also sent dozens of spies to the Alpine country.

“The threat to Switzerland posed by foreign espionage, mainly Russian and Chinese, remains high,” it said at the time.

During Monday’s debate, there was also focus on importance of safeguarding the credibility of the international hub in Geneva, home to the United Nations’ European headquarters and a wide range of UN agencies and other international organisations.

“We cannot be the soft underbelly of Europe when it comes to espionage, nor leave international Geneva at the mercy of these spies,” said Carlo Sommaruga of the Socialist Party.

Defense Minister Viola Amherd told the house the government supported the motion, saying it was important to send a message that the country would not “tolerate activities that endanger Swiss security”.

But she stressed it could “not lead to any automatic action” and that each case “must be examined and decided individually”.

Read more:

Russia waging shadow war on the West, needs a collective response: Estonian leader

Russia’s Putin demotes Cold War warrior Patrushev and raises two younger allies

Poland investigating Russian espionage, security agency says

Top Content Trending