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Switzerland takes cautious stance on Ukraine crisis

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 - 8:23pm IST | Agency: Reuters

Neutral Switzerland took a cautious stance in the Ukraine crisis on Wednesday, saying it would not be "abused" by those wanting to circumvent Western sanctions against Russia but stopping short of adopting its own measures.

The United States, European Union and Canada have imposed asset freezes and travel bans on a group of Russian officials over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

But Switzerland, a global hub for private banking and a popular destination for Russia's wealthy elite, is reluctant to take measures it fears could compromise its cherished neutrality or damage closely-nurtured trade relations with Moscow.

"The government has decided that Switzerland where appropriate will take necessary measures so that it is not abused to avoid present and future sanctions by the international community," the Swiss government said in a carefully worded statement published on its website.

This means some of the sanctions imposed by the 28-nation EU will also apply in Switzerland due to its participation in the bloc's passport-free Schengen zone, it said.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a news conference the 33 Russians and Crimeans on the EU's sanctions list would not be able to apply to Switzerland for a Schengen visa.

Depending on how the situation develops, the government said it left open the possibility of more fully adopting the EU or U.S. sanctions.

The Group of Seven leading industrialised nations, which includes the United States, four EU member states, Canada and Japan, have threatened to impose harsher economic measures against Russia if the standoff over Ukraine escalates.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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