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Swiss Foreign Minister: Switzerland not against giving Russian assets to Ukraine but referendum may be needed

by The Kyiv Independent news desk January 20, 2023 4:00 PM 1 min read
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Switzerland's Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that his country supports the idea of using frozen Russian assets for Ukraine's reconstruction, but it would require "major legal adjustments."

According to Cassis, current Swiss legislation doesn't allow the confiscation of sanctioned assets, and a referendum may be needed to change this law.

"We can't just take money that doesn't belong to us because we think it's morally right… It's about finding the right mechanisms so that there are no side effects greater than the intended main effect - almost like in medicine," said Cassis, cited by Bloomberg.

Swiss banks have been critical of the proposal to redirect frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, according to NZZ news outlet. An unidentified representative of a large Swiss private bank told the publication that if the idea is implemented, it would be "the beginning of the end of the Swiss financial center."

Cassis told Tages-Anzeiger that Switzerland had frozen 7.5 billion francs ($8.2 billion) in Russian assets so far.

According to SECO, the agency overseeing sanctions, Swiss banks hold deposits of Russian nationals, natural persons, and legal entities amounting to about 46.1 billion francs ($48.15 billion). It is far less than the $213 billion estimated by the Swiss Bankers Association in March.

Bloomberg reported on Jan. 9 that Estonia was preparing to present a plan for seizing Russian assets and delivering funds under European Union sanctions to Ukraine. Poland and Finland backed the idea earlier.

On Dec. 22, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment allowing the transfer of seized assets belonging to Russian oligarchs to the people of Ukraine.

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