Moscow responded with a furious ban on Swiss planes flying over it territory.
Moscow has closed its airspace to Swiss planes, mirroring Bern’s decision on Monday to prohibit Russian aircraft from flying over the Alpine country.
Russia’s aviation authority released a statement on Tuesday saying that “As a retaliatory step and in accordance with international law” in the wake of the ban Switzerland had imposed on Russian aircraft, Moscow was “Aircraft of civil origin are not allowed to fly” belonging to or registered in Switzerland.
On Monday, Ignazio Cassis, who serves as Switzerland’s President and Foreign Minister, announced that his country was joining other Western nations in slapping sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
This is a significant break from tradition, as Switzerland was neutral for many decades.
Explaining his decision during a press conference in Bern on February 28, Cassis described the current situation in Ukraine as “extraordinary,” adding that it called for “Extraordinary measures” The Swiss Head of State, however, insisted that the unprecedented measures did not mean that Switzerland had ceased to be neutral.
Switzerland’s sanctions are essentially identical to those the EU imposed on Russia in late February. In addition to closing Russia’s airspace and prohibiting Swiss companies and officials from conducting business with Russian businessmen and officers, Bern announced punitive actions that directly targeted Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov.
Additionally, Bern pledged to deliver “Supplies of relief” for Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland.
In 2014-2015, the Ukraine crisis escalated and Switzerland chose not to place sanctions on Russia or other involved parties.
In total, 36 nations (all EU member countries) have made it impossible for Russian planes to use their airspace. Moscow issued a tit-for–tat response to close airspace for planes registered or owned by the countries.
Moreover, Western nations and some of their allies in Asia have also imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, targeting, among other things, its central bank’s assets as well as a number of major commercial banks, individuals believed to be Putin’s close associates and the country’s leadership as well. The punitive measures came in response to a “Special military operation” in Ukraine which Russia launched on February 24. President Putin declared the “Demilitarization & Denazification” of the country as the operation’s main goal. Ukraine and its Western allies, in turn, insist that Moscow’s military actions are an “unprovoked” aggression against a sovereign state.