“20 minutes” meets Ignazio Cassis: “Money is not a problem just because he is Russian”

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“20 minutes” meets Ignazio Cassis“Money is not an issue just because you are Russian”

The President of the Confederation answered questions from readers about international political news, in particular about the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia.

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Sandro Spaeth

Yannick Weber

For 45 minutes, Ignazio Cassis answered questions from German-speaking readers.

20min/Marco Zangger

How do you stay informed about the situation in Ukraine? Through the media? Or do you have intelligence bulletins?

I have multiple channels. There are the intelligence services, but also all the Swiss diplomats. They observe everything that is said, everywhere in the world. There are also the means of communication, of course, that allow you to be informed if a situation is changing rapidly. Finally, the weekly discussions with my colleagues at the Federal Council, each with information related to their department.

Can you be woken up in the middle of the night by your services? Have you ever turned off your smartphone?

It is clear. For example, on February 24, I was woken up at 4 am to be informed of the Russian invasion.

Last week, a US Congressional committee criticized Switzerland, accusing it of being an accomplice of Putin. How did you react?

More than reacting, I acted. I immediately called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This position was simply unacceptable. He recalled that this came from an independent government commission and that the state of our relations remained intact.

The interview took place on Tuesday at noon.

The interview took place on Tuesday at noon.

20min/Marco Zangger

Switzerland is said to be home to a total of 200 billion francs in Russian assets. However, only 7.5 billion were blocked. Don’t you fear for Switzerland’s reputation?

No way. Two different things should not be confused: money is not an issue because it is Russian, money is a problem when it belongs to the oligarchs. Eight billion are frozen. On the contrary, I heard praise from abroad about the Swiss reaction.

Now for questions from our readers. Elvira asks what you think of the idea of ​​using frozen Russian assets to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction.

First, we must know when the war will end. Today, it is estimated that the cost of reconstruction is already 600 billion dollars. We can use freezing for that, but that’s called expropriation. Ownership is a core value in our society. Taking away from someone what they have requires laws, perhaps even a change in the Constitution. It’s a very long way. The Federal Council has not yet discussed. But given the amounts in question, international coordination would be necessary anyway.

A question from Rene. Why doesn’t Switzerland remain neutral? In adopting sanctions, we are on the side of the United States.

I can reassure René: we remain neutral. Neutrality has a core, it’s the law. This prevents us from four things: declaring war, joining a military alliance, exporting war material to a country involved in a war, and allowing troops or war material to transit through Switzerland. It is the law of neutrality. Then there is the policy of neutrality. And the violation of international law was so serious that we could not remain silent.

The President of the Confederation received us in his office.

The President of the Confederation received us in his office.

20min/Marco Zangger

Question asked under the pseudonym William Tell: why did you take sanctions without first consulting the people?

Switzerland imposes sanctions based on laws, laws that the people have accepted. They say Switzerland should resume UN sanctions. For these, she has no choice. On the other hand, you have the option of accepting EU sanctions or not. In recent years, Switzerland has taken over three-quarters of European sanctions.

Jörg’s question: why doesn’t Switzerland sanction, for example, Saudi Arabia, which had the regime’s critics assassinated?

Because neither the UN nor the EU have taken any sanctions against this country. Only a few Saudi citizens are targeted by European sanctions. We didn’t take them back.

Question from Petra: What do you think of PLR President Thierry Burkhart’s proposal to hand over Swiss weapons to Ukraine?

The law of neutrality forbids it, it is one of its fundamental principles. We cannot do this without first changing the law.

Did Volodymyr Zelensky ever invite you to Ukraine, whom you called a friend?

It wouldn’t make sense for him to invite me if we could call him regularly. It would be a symbolic political act that, for me, at the moment, is not important. The most important work is done behind the scenes and without public visibility.

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