Pressure continues to mount to sanction Russian assets in Switzerland

“There is a lot of money from the Russian elite in Swiss banks. For us, it is vital that Switzerland supports global pressure on Russia,” insists Alexander Rodnyansky, adviser to the Ukrainian president.

Credit Suisse, the number two in the Swiss banking sector, is reducing its exposure to Russia as pressure on banks mounts in Switzerland after a call to this effect from Ukrainian President Zelensky.

The bank will stop doing business with new customers and reduce its exposure in the country, a spokeswoman for the group told AFP, confirming information from the Bloomberg agency on the basis of an internal document.

It will also move positions out of Russia and help these employees relocate elsewhere. It also helps its customers to forge their ties with Russia, affected by sanctions, in particular since Russian banks are cut off from the international payment system Swift.

As the departures of major international banks accelerate, Swiss banks are under pressure, the image of the country being closely associated with this sector.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US House of Representatives Government Action Oversight Committee sent a letter to the head of Credit Suisse, asking him for information on how the bank complied with the sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine.

The pressure had already mounted after a demonstration of support for Ukraine ten days ago, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to the crowd gathered in Bern, in front of Parliament.

In video-conference from kyiv, he had in particular castigated the banks: “the money of the people who launched this war is in your banks. Help us fight this. So that these funds are frozen”, he had launched to the applause of the crowd.

Wide support from Swiss public opinion

On Sunday, Alexander Rodnyansky, one of his close advisers, reiterated his call in an interview with Blick.

“There is a lot of money from the Russian elite in Swiss banks. For us, it is vital that Switzerland supports global pressure on Russia,” he pleaded.

Since the Swiss government aligned itself with the sanctions of the European Union at the end of February, banks have the obligation to declare to the Ministry of the Economy the persons or entities targeted by sanctions among their customers.

But according to Mr. Rodnyansky, “that is not enough”. “Switzerland must, like other states, actively seek out these assets. A large part of the Russian elite continues to act in the shadows. They hide their funds”, he insisted, believing that Switzerland must “intervene more firmly”.

According to a survey published Monday by the Link Institute, 57% of people questioned in Switzerland are in favor of freezing the assets of senior Russian dignitaries close to power, 26% believing that the sanctions in this area do not go far enough, according to this survey carried out among 1,200 people between March 17 and 21.

Switzerland has so far frozen the equivalent of 5.75 billion Swiss francs (5.62 billion euros) in Russian assets since the invasion of Ukraine, a senior government official said last week. Ministry of Economy.

But these amounts are still likely to increase as the information provided by the banks will reach him, he said.

In its annual report, Credit Suisse had estimated its exposure to Russia at 848 million Swiss francs at the end of December 2021, while specifying that the amounts had since decreased. Its competitor UBS had assessed its exposure at 200 million dollars (182 million euros).

According to an estimate by the Swiss Bankers Association, Russian cross-border assets held by Swiss banks could amount to between 150 and 200 billion Swiss francs.

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