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Swiss exports to Russia suspected of evading sanctions

Swiss exports to Russia suspected of evading sanctions

Swiss goods enter Russia via third countries. KEYSTON

Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, Swiss exports to countries close to Russia have increased significantly – which points to a possible evasion of sanctions.

Shortly after the Russian attack on Ukraine, Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia. On February 28, 2022, Switzerland also reacted and adopted the EU sanctions. Since then, exports to Russia have been banned, with some exceptions such as medical goods.

However, trade with countries close to Russia such as Armenia, Kazakhstan or Georgia is not sanctioned.

As an analysis by the University of St. Gallen shows, exports to Russia collapsed shortly after the start of the war, except for a few non-sanctioned goods. At the same time, exports of goods to countries close to Russia have increased significantly.

There is suspicion of circumvention, says trade economist Stefan Legge from the University of St Gallen. Even considering that a large proportion of exports can be traced back to non-sanctioned pharmaceutical products.

“Swiss exports to certain countries increased at the very moment when the Russian army invaded Ukraine. In addition, exports from third countries to Russia also showed an increase in the same period. From this you can form a chain of evidence.”

Even if there are no indications yet, such a sudden increase in demand to this extent is unlikely.

The example of Armenia shows the dimension of increased exports. Swiss exports to Armenia – including non-sanctioned pharmaceutical products – more than tripled in the first year of the war compared to the previous year in 2021. At the same time, exports from Armenia to Russia increased by 198%.

The forwarding of goods via third countries probably also takes place via larger countries such as China or Turkey. According to the trade economist, countries close to Russia are better suited for any circumvention transactions because they are geographically and politically close to Russia.

“At the same time, the countries are relatively small, so special shifts or circumvention transactions in Swiss trade flows with these countries are more noticeable.” In principle, it is relatively difficult to prevent such circumvention transactions, says Legge. Trade always finds a way.

Nevertheless, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) is leaving no stone unturned. Seco actively investigates indications of sanctions violations, suspected cases and punishes violations.

Even if the volume of exports to countries close to Russia accounts for less than 1% of Swiss exports, any circumvention transaction plays into the hands of the Russian regime.

Translated from German by DeepL/mga

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