Mar 22, 2022 - World

Switzerland is not so neutral on Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks are livestreamed in Bern. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty

In an emotional address to the Swiss people on Saturday — which was livestreamed at a solidarity rally outside the Federal Palace in the capital, Bern — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for tougher sanctions on oligarchs and asked, "Why can't we live like the Swiss?"

Why it matters: Switzerland is famously neutral, but not when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

Driving the news: Swiss President Ignazio Cassis spoke at the rally on Saturday, praising the Ukrainian people's spirit of resistance but drawing a rebuke from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), which provides two of the Swiss government's seven ministers.

  • "A demonstrating federal president is the last thing Switzerland needs," the SVP said. One of the party's leading figures has called for a referendum to ban sanctions to preserve Switzerland's neutrality.

Yes, but: The Swiss population broadly supports the sanctions against Russia, and all three major newspapers published editorials over the weekend calling for additional steps, like ending Switzerland's reliance on Russian gas.

  • Unlike during the 2015 migrant crisis, solidarity with Ukrainian refugees is also high.

During his speech, Zelensky specifically called on Swiss multinational Nestlé, the world's largest food company, to end its business in Russia.

  • "We have stopped all imports and exports from Russia, except for vital products," a spokesperson told Blick.
  • He also called on Swiss banks to freeze oligarchs' funds and for Switzerland to expel Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supporters.

Worth noting: The Swiss Federal Department of Police and Justice has responded to media reports that Putin's "secret wife" and their children might be hiding out in a luxury chalet in the Alps, saying it has "no indication of the presence of this person in Switzerland."

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