Moscow accused Switzerland of abandoning neutrality by mirroring EU sanctions over the Ukraine war.
Russia says it has rejected a Swiss offer to represent Ukraine’s interests in Moscow because it no longer considers Switzerland a neutral country.
Bern and Kyiv on Wednesday agreed on a mandate for Switzerland to represent Ukrainian interests in Russia, which invaded its neighbor in late February.
However, on Thursday, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the plan was not acceptable under the current circumstances.
“The Swiss are really interested in our opinion about the possible representation of Ukraine’s interests in Russia and Russia’s interests in Ukraine,” Ivan Nechayev told reporters.
“We answered very clearly that Switzerland has unfortunately lost the status of a neutral state and cannot act as a mediator or representative. Bern has joined illegal Western sanctions against Russia. “
Swiss media previously reported that the main objective of the Swiss proposal is to allow Ukrainians living in Russia to receive consular services from the Swiss embassy in Moscow.
Switzerland has a long diplomatic tradition of acting as a mediator between countries with severed ties.
The wealthy Alpine country – which has ordered hundreds of such since it played the role of a defending power during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 – represents the diplomatic interests of many countries in a difficult situation right now.
It currently represents United States interests in Iran and Iranian interests in Canada, as well as Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia and vice versa.
Interestingly, it represents Russian interests in Georgia and vice versa.
But the European Union – of which Switzerland is not a member – has drawn Moscow’s ire in recent months by mirroring almost all sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine.
Last week, the Swiss government adopted some of the latest measures imposed by the 27-member bloc, including a ban on the purchase, import or transport of gold and gold products from Russia.
Announcing the Swiss government’s move in late February to break the country’s traditional neutrality and sanction Russia, President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said the “extraordinary situation” in Ukraine required “extraordinary measures” in response.
“We stand by Western values,” he added.
Switzerland previously explained the sanctions imposed in 2014 in the wake of the crisis when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
The exception was sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, which had to be enforced under international law.