Russian-Swiss Relations: Facts and Details

On Monday, an award ceremony honouring those who have made significant contributions to Russian-Swiss bilateral relations took place in Moscow, concluding a year of events marking the 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

MOSCOW, December 8 (Sputnik) — Russia and Switzerland established diplomatic relations on March 6 (22 February using the Julian calendar as Russia did at the time), 1814. On that day, a prominent Russian diplomat, State Councillor Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, was presented with credentials as special envoy and plenipotentiary minister in the Swiss Republic.

By early 20th century, Switzerland had several consulates across the Russian Empire (in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Riga, Warsaw, Tiflis and Kiev) dealing with the affairs of Swiss settlements in Russia and trade matters. The first Swiss embassy in Russia was established in St. Petersburg in 1906.

In 1917, Switzerland refused to officially recognize Soviet Russia but did not sever relations. In May 1918, the Swiss government accepted a mission of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) led by Yan Berzin in Bern.

However, the mission was deported in November the same year on charges of revolutionary propaganda. Relations broke up completely in 1923 following the murder of Soviet Ambassador Vatslav Vorovsky in Lausanne and the acquittal of his murderers by a Swiss jury.

On March 18, 1946, the USSR and Switzerland resumed diplomatic relations. On December 23, 1991, Switzerland became one of the first countries to recognize the Russian Federation as the USSR's legal successor.

Russia and Switzerland have maintained regular political contacts in recent years. On September 21-22, 2009, Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian President to pay a state visit to Switzerland. He held talks with President of the Swiss Confederation Hans-Rudolf Merz, addressed representatives from Swiss and Russian business circles and attended ceremonies commemorating the 210th anniversary of Russian Field Marshall Alexander Suvorov's Alpine campaign. A large number of bilateral agreements were signed during the visit.

Dmitry Medvedev has also met other presidents of Switzerland: Pascal Couchepin (October 8, 2008), Doris Leuthard (August 26, 2010) and Micheline Calmy-Rey (July 13 and October 30, 2011).

On June 15, 2011, during a working visit to Geneva, Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister at the time, held talks with then president of Switzerland Micheline Calmy-Rey. In January 2013, at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with President of Switzerland Ueli Maurer.

During the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February 2014, President Vladimir Putin visited the Switzerland House at the Olympic Park. On May 7, 2014, Didier Burkhalter, President of Switzerland and incumbent OSCE Chairman, visited Moscow on business. He met with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In June 2014, Putin and Burkhalter met again during the Russian president's visit to Austria. The parties discussed the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

The foreign ministers of Russia and Switzerland meet on a regular basis, as do the heads of other ministries. There is also consistent cooperation between defense ministries and law enforcement agencies.

The Russian-Swiss Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation was established in January 1994. In July 2009, with the support of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a business council on cooperation with Switzerland was established. A representative office of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been operating in Zurich since December 2011.

As of the end of 2013, the sales turnover between the two countries amounted to $11.8 billion according to Russian official statistics.

Russia's exports to Switzerland primarily consist of minerals (50.5 percent), gem stones and precious metals (38.7 percent), chemical products (6.3 percent) and metals and metal products (2.5 percent). Imports from Switzerland include cars, equipment and vehicles (42.1 percent), chemicals (33.0 percent), food and agricultural raw materials (9.6 percent) and other products, mainly watches (9.0 percent), metals and metal goods (3.7 percent).

Over the first nine months of 2013, Swiss investments in Russia amounted to $5.2 billion (including $2.6 billion of direct investments) while Russian investments in Switzerland amounted to $8.2 billion ($3 billion of direct investments).

Major Swiss investors in Russia include Nestlé (food industry), Asea Brown Boveri (high-voltage and low-voltage equipment for industrial production, construction, housing and utilities) and Schindler (elevators and escalators). Over 600 companies with Swiss capital are registered in Russia. Some major Russian investors in Switzerland include the Renova Group, Rusal and the SUAL Group.

In 2014, relations between Russia and the West deteriorated due to the crisis in Ukraine. In late July, the EU and the US moved from targeted sanctions against specific individuals and companies toward measures against whole sectors of the Russian economy. Switzerland did not join the EU sanctions. However, it introduced restrictions that prevent circumventing sanctions through its territory.

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