BERN (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Switzerland on Saturday to crack down on Russian oligarchs who he said were helping to wage war on his country from the safety of “beautiful Swiss towns”.
In an audiolink address to thousands attending an anti-war protest in Bern, Zelenskiy thanked Switzerland for its support since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but also had clear language about the Swiss financial sector.
“Your banks are where the money of the people who unleashed this war lies. That is painful. That is also a fight against evil, that their accounts are frozen. That would also be a fight, and you can do this,” he said via a translator.
“Ukrainians feel what it is when cities are destroyed. They are being destroyed on the orders of people who live in European, in beautiful Swiss towns, who enjoy property in your cities. It would really be good to strip them of this privilege.”
Neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, has fully adopted EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities and frozen their wealth in Swiss banks.
The government has not provided a figure for how much wealth is covered by the freeze. Switzerland’s secretive banks hold up to $213 billion of overall Russian wealth, the country’s financial industry association estimates.
Zelenskiy also took a swipe at Swiss-based businesses that continue to operate in Russia, singling out food group Nestle and accusing it of not living up to its “Good Food, Good Life” slogan.
Asked to comment on Zelenskiy’s remarks, a Nestle spokesperson said the company fully complies with all sanctions and had scaled back its operations in Russia, including stopping all imports and exports of non-essential food items.
“Continuing to supply essential items to people in Russia does not mean we continue doing business as usual in the country,” the spokesperson said, noting that the company had halted investments and product promotions and was not making any profit there.
(Reporting by Arnd Wiegmann; Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by Helen Popper)