Switzerland rebuffs Ukrainian demand for Russian assets

The Swiss president says a blanket confiscation of Russian funds would create a dangerous precedent

Switzerland has said that the Ukrainian proposal to confiscate billions worth of frozen Russian assets would create a dangerous precedent.

“You have to ensure the citizens are protected against the power of the state. This is what we call liberal democracies,” President Ignazio Cassis told reporters in Lugano on Tuesday while attending a conference aimed to bolster aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal earlier argued that Western governments should confiscate $300-$500 billion of frozen Russian assets and direct them toward Ukraine’s recovery from the conflict. The asset freezes were among the many sanctions imposed on Moscow after it sent troops into Ukraine in late February.

“We believe that the key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” the Ukrainian PM said.

Cassis, however, stressed that the “right of property is a fundamental right,” and that “seriousness” is required in the discussion about Russian funds held by the West.

We have to accord the most important attention on the fundamental right of individuals, because now we can take a decision, which is perfect for the situation in Ukraine, but we create the possibility to take the same decision in many other possibilities and you give much more power to the states, away from the citizen.

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Property rights are guaranteed under the Swiss constitution. Monika Roth, a law professor at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, told Swiss broadcaster SRF that the country does not have the necessary laws to enact a blanket confiscation of Russian funds and that Ukraine’s proposal would be difficult to implement.

“It would have to be proven that [each owner] has allowed the funds and assets to be used in support of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war,” she said.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, however, last week voiced her support in principle for the confiscation of Russian assets. “I certainly agree with the concept. We just need to get the specifics of it right.”

The Kremlin previously said that the confiscation of Russian assets abroad would be illegal, comparing it to “direct theft.”

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