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Ukraine war

Switzerland, “the Kremlin’s willing helper”

Jean Dujardin as a Swiss banker in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

If there’s one Western country Vladimir Putin can still rely on, says Michael Sauga in Der Spiegel, it’s Switzerland. Bern has spoken out against supplying Ukraine with ammunition, and “only reluctantly joined sanctions” against Russia. Its donations to Kyiv’s war effort rank just 29th out of 40 countries tracked by the Kiel Institute. And thanks to its lax financial restrictions – Switzerland comes fifth on the tax haven index, just behind the Cayman and British Virgin Islands – it continues to serve as a “secret investment paradise for the dictators and oligarchs of the world”. Russians very much included.

Swiss officials certainly show no “particular ambition” to track down Russian assets. There’s no task force seizing their yachts, luxury villas or private jets, as there is in the US and EU. Of an estimated £177bn “stashed in Russian accounts in Switzerland”, the authorities have frozen a measly £6.6bn. The truth is that its financial industry has become as “dependent on dirty cash flows as German industry is on Russian gas”. As Swiss banker Josef Ackermann, the former head of Deutsche Bank, has said, targeting Russian assets too vigorously would be “devastating for the financial sector”. In its reluctance to do so, Switzerland is proving itself to be “the Kremlin’s willing helper”.