© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Swiss President Ignazio Cassis addresses a news conference after a meeting of the Swiss government Bundesrat in Bern, Switzerland February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
GENEVA (Reuters) – Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said on Sunday that it was “very probable” that neutral Switzerland would follow the European Union (EU) on Monday in sanctioning Russia and freezing Russian assets in the Alpine country.
Cassis, interviewed on French-language Swiss public television, said that the seven-member Federal Council would meet on Monday and review recommendations by the departments of finance and economy.
Asked whether Switzerland — a major financial centre and commodities trading hub — would follow the EU in freezing Russian assets, he said: “It is very probable that the government will decide to do so tomorrow, but I cannot anticipate decisions not yet taken.”
Switzerland has walked a tortuous line between showing solidarity with the West and maintaining its traditional neutrality that the government says lets it offer its services as a potential mediator.
But it faces growing domestic pressure to side clearly with the West against Moscow and adopt punitive European Union sanctions. The government had so far said only that it will not let Switzerland be used as a platform to circumvent EU sanctions.
In the biggest peace march in decades, around 20,000 people demonstrated in Bern on Saturday to support Ukraine, some booing the government over its cautious policy.
The government last week amended its watchlist to include 363 individuals and four companies that the EU had put on its sanctions list to punish Moscow.
Russians held nearly 10.4 billion Swiss francs ($11.24 billion) in Switzerland in 2020, Swiss National Bank data show. Switzerland is also a major trading centre for Russian commodities.
($1 = 0.9252 Swiss francs)
‘Very probable’ that Swiss will freeze Russian assets – president
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