Switzerland, the traditionally neutral country has not only joined the European Union in condemning Russia, but it is now pursuing Russian cryptocurrency.
According to a Financial Times article published on Friday, Switzerland intends to freeze crypto assets owned by Russian individuals and corporations kept within Swiss borders.
The freeze would be in addition to the sanctions already implemented by the EU in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to Swiss Finance Minister Guy Parmelin, 223 Russians, including close colleagues of President Vladimir Putin, have had their bank accounts and physical assets frozen by Switzerland in the last week, according to the Financial Times. The cryptocurrency bans constitute an extra consequence in addition to the EU sanctions.
According to a senior finance ministry official, freezing crypto assets was required because Switzerland wants to maintain the credibility of its blockchain business. According to a research by CV VC, a Swiss venture capital firm, about 1,128 blockchain startups called Switzerland or nearby principality Liechtenstein home as of December 2021.
The European Union unveiled proposals on Wednesday to restrict Russia’s ability to avoid economic sanctions by utilizing cryptocurrency.
France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said:
“We are taking measures, in particular on cryptocurrencies or crypto assets which should not be used to circumvent the financial sanctions decided upon by the 27 EU countries,”
Calls for exchanges such as Coinbase and Binance to prohibit and freeze Russian access to cryptocurrencies have highlighted the transnational nature of digital assets. While an exchange may freeze or limit access, cryptocurrency stored in cold storage or a self-custodial wallet would be more difficult to confiscate or seize—unless its holders attempted to move it through restricted channels.
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