Ukraine asked Switzerland to represent it diplomatically in Russia, according to Bern on Wednesday, but Moscow has to approve this measure to come into force.
Ever since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Switzerland — renowned for its neutrality — has said it stood ready to provide diplomatic assistance and to serve as a go-between.
The Foreign Ministry mentioned on Wednesday that Ukraine had requested that Switzerland “assume a protecting power mandate” for Kyiv in Russia, confirming a story published by the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper.
The ministry explained that such protecting power mandates “allow states to maintain low-level relations and provide consular protection to nationals of the other state concerned”.
A ministry spokesperson told AFP in an email confirmed that “the corresponding negotiations have been completed,” without providing further details about the duration or content of the negotiations, emphasizing that “discretion is a crucial element in providing good service.”
However, the spokesperson stressed, “In order for the protecting power mandate to come into force, Russia still has to give its consent.”
That could be a tricky thing, since Moscow has been angered by Bern’s decision to follow the neighboring European Union (EU) in imposing sanctions on Russia, reportedly questioning whether Switzerland could still be considered neutral.
Switzerland has a long tradition of acting as a protecting power, first playing the role during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871.
The wealthy Alpine country, which has held such mandates hundreds of times since then, currently represents the diplomatic interests of a range of countries in similarly difficult situations.