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03/12/2016

Swiss add names to list to prevent bypassing of Russian sanctions

Europe's East

Swiss add names to list to prevent bypassing of Russian sanctions

Training for the Swiss Alps. Vladimir Putin, 2011 National Youth Forum .

[Playing Futures/Flickr]

Switzerland has added 13 people and five organisations to a list designed to stop the country being used as a conduit to circumvent Western sanctions against Russia.

Switzerland, which is outside the European Union, but is linked by agreements governing trade and other measures, decided in March not to join the sanctions that the EU has imposed over the Ukraine crisis but has been keen to avoid undermining them.

The names it added on Tuesday include Sergey Kozyakov, who was election commission chief in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, and the self-styled Donetsk Republic organisation.

Those named on the list are prohibited from entering into new business relationships with financial intermediaries in Switzerland. This is aimed at preventing assets held outside the EU from being transferred to Switzerland.

>>Read: Switzerland rejects requests from EU firms to bypass Russia’s food ban

Existing Swiss measures include requiring approval for five Russian banks to issue long-term financial instruments here.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have approved new sanctions on weapons companies and investors in the high-tech oil projects in Russia, although US President Barack Obama has yet to sign the bill into law.

Switzerland, a global commodity trading and private banking hub, is a popular destination for Russia’s wealthy elite and is reluctant to take steps it fears could compromise its cherished neutrality or damage closely-nurtured trade ties with Moscow.

Around 75 percent of Russian crude oil exports are traded through Geneva, according to the Swiss government, and Swiss banks held nearly 13.8 billion francs ($15.2 billion) of Russian assets in Swiss banks in 2012, according to the latest Swiss National Bank statistics.

Background

Russia has escalated an economic battle set off by the crisis in Ukraine with a ban on all food imports from the United States and on fruit and vegetables from the European Union, dropping any pretence these might be for food safety reasons.

The import ban, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 6 August, comes after he ordered retaliation for Western sanctions against Moscow. The decree halts or limits imports of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia, ordering the government to come up with a list of imports to be banned for a year.

Russia is a major buyer of European fruit and vegetables but ranks 23rd among buyers of food from the United States, accounting for less than 1% of America's farm exports.