The Swiss Federal Council continues aligning the Swiss sanctions regime to the EU sanctions against Russia. On March 29, 2023, the Swiss Federal Council adopted remaining measures against Russia, in line with the 10th sanctions package adopted by the European Union (EU). Indeed, on March 2, 2023, the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (DEFR) already amended Annex 8 of the Ordinance on measures in connection with the situation in Ukraine and added 87 persons and 34 entities. The latest measures include additional commercial restrictions and restrictions in financial sector. They also include humanitarian exemptions and introduce a new means of safeguarding Swiss economic interests in specific cases.

1. Introduction 

On March 29, 2023, the Swiss Federal Council adopted further sanctions against Russia with a view to mirroring the latest measures imposed by the EU on February 25, 2023. The corresponding amendments to the Ordinance on measures in connection with the situation in Ukraine ("UKRO") entered into force on March 29, 2023 at 20:00 CEST, except for the new Article 28f UKRO which will enter into force on April 27, 2023. 

A free English translation of UKRO as of March 29, 2023 and a redline against the version of January 25,2023 are available, respectively here and here.

The new measures include in particular the following: 

  •  ban on the transit through Russia and Ukraine of dual-use and military goods, in order to avoid circumvention (Articles 2a (1bis) and 4 (1bis) UKRO);
  • further restrictions on the export of goods for the aeronautical and space industry, such as turbojets and turbopropellers (Article 9 (Annex 3 (4)) and transitional provisions (Article 35 (20bis) (d-f) UKRO);
  •  further restrictions on the import of goods of economic importance for Russia such as bitumen, synthetic rubber and carbon blacks originating from Russia (Article14c (1) (Annex 20 (3) UKRO);
  • introduction of the importation quotas for certain economically important goods, such as carbon blacks and synthetic rubber (Article 14c (3) and (4) (Annex 21 (2) UKRO);
  •  prohibition to hold a position in the governing bodies of Russian state-owned companies is now extended to the companies located outside Switzerland or an EEA member state which for more than 50 % controlled by Russian stateowned companies or companies acting on their behalf (Article 24a UKRO); 
  • prohibition on Russian nationals from holding positions in the governing bodies of critical infrastructures and entities (new Article 28f UKRO1 , which will enter into force on 27 April 2023); 
  • introduction of new reporting obligations in relation to the reserves and assets of the Central Bank of Russia (Article 24 (3) et (4) UKRO); 
  • obligation on aircraft operators to notify nonscheduled flights to the FOCA at least 48 hours in advance (Article 29a (4) UKRO); as well as 
  • possibility to lift the freeze of certain assets, if the interests of Switzerland are concerned (Article 15 (5ter) UKRO). 

Further, UKRO introduces a separate Section 4a (Articles 30a, 30b and 30c UKRO), which sets forth possibility to grant exemptions in relation to various products and services (the wording is partially taken from the existing Article 14e UKRO). Insofar as the Swiss regulator does not dispose of such instrument as licensing, authorizing certain activities that sanctions measures would otherwise prohibit, which is commonly used in the UK and in the US, this novelty seems to be a reasonable attempt to make the regulatory process more flexible and capable to adjust to the economic needs.  

Also, on February 9, 2022, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) published an amended version of its clarifications in the form of "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) document, inter alia to include frequently asked questions in relation to Articles 13, 14, 16 and 25 UKRO. 

A free English translation of the FAQ and a redline against the version of November 29, 2022 are available, respectively here and here.

2. Impact & expected developments

Due to the far reaching effects of the adopted prohibitions and the limited official guidance, the implementation of new measures raises considerable difficulties in practice. In order to mitigate risks, businesses often opt for a broad reading of sanctions, rather than the one strictly based on the letter law. 

Sanctions are further amended and adapted on an ongoing basis. Given the importance of the topic and the potentially serious legal and reputational consequences in case of breach, it is essential to keep abreast of the latest measures and any guidance issued by the Swiss government in this regard. We are monitoring these developments closely.

At this juncture, the introduced restrictions raise a number of interpretation and practical implementation questions. Some of those questions are expected to be clarified based on EU sanctions guidance and FAQs, if any, whereas other issues will require formal confirmation from SECO. We are working with our clients to clarify the expectations of competent authorities and to find practical solutions for an efficient operational implementation of the sanctions framework. 

› Useful links

Given the fluid nature of the sanctions, we enclose some relevant resources which we trust will be of assistance for monitoring the developments:

(a) Swiss Sanctions

UKRO, as amended on March 29, 2023

› Official publication:

SECO clarifications on application of 12, 13, 14, 14a, 14c, 15, 16, 20, 21, 23, 25 28b and 28d UKRO, as amended on February 9, 2023

› Official publication:

(b) EU Sanctions

› Consolidated texts of sanctions regulations

› Compilation of frequently asked questions regarding EU sanctions available here: link.