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Media: 1 in 5 Europe-based Russian spies located in Switzerland

by The Kyiv Independent news desk October 8, 2023 2:56 PM 2 min read
The Federal Palace, Switzerland's parliament building, in Bern, Switzerland, March 2023. (Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Switzerland is increasingly becoming a base for Russia's secret services, with about 80 Russian spies in the country, according to an investigation by Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

Experts quoted by the paper said entire networks of agents could be managed and given instructions from Switzerland, while the Kremlin's intelligence services can monitor the Russian diaspora and explore ways to circumvent Western sanctions.

Switzerland's Foreign Policy Commission recently approved a proposal that calls for the consistent expulsion of spies, but the motion's chances in parliament are uncertain.

The country has regularly been criticized for using its neutral stance to avoid helping Ukraine against Russia, which proves problematic as Switzerland has a right to veto the export of weapons it produces to Ukraine.

A considerable majority of the Swiss National Council, Switzerland's lower house of parliament, voted against a proposal to amend the rules regarding re-exporting Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine, the Swiss legislature reported on Sept. 27.

The Swiss parliament previously voted against a similar proposal, and Switzerland has also blocked the transfer of Swiss-made Leopard 1 tanks currently in Italy to Ukraine.

Following Switzerland's long-term neutrality policy, the country's law does not currently allow the delivery of Swiss weapons to combat zones, even when supplied by an intermediary country.

Switzerland is not in the EU, which means the country is not obliged to comply with sanctions against Russian spies or expel them.

However, Switzerland expanded its sanctions against Russia in line with the EU’s 11th package of sanctions, the Swiss government announced on June 28.

In cooperation with the latest round of sanctions, Switzerland will freeze the assets of the newly-listed Russian individuals and organizations and ban them from entering or crossing through the country.

Switzerland broke from its tradition of political neutrality to join in sanctions against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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