Switzerland and Russia's overall relations remain solid. Switzerland condemns any form of illegal espionage or cyber attacks on its territory. In spite of continuing friction at the international level, Switzerland is committed to maintaining dialogue and pursues an unbiased, even-handed policy towards Russia. This approach stems from Switzerland's conviction that tensions can only be defused through ongoing dialogue.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Russia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In terms of foreign policy, Russia is one of Switzerland’s priority partners. As a member of the UN Security Council and the G20, Russia is a major international player. Since a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2007, contact between Swiss and Russian representatives has increased significantly, with both parties holding regular talks and meetings. This format makes it possible to address challenges in Swiss-Russian relations jointly.
Since March 2009 – following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia in 2008 – Switzerland has represented Russia's interests in Tbilisi and Georgia's interests in Moscow. Close contact has also been established at parliamentary level
Russia is a large market with considerable potential for Swiss companies, but the actual level of trade remains modest. Switzerland is committed to creating optimal conditions for Swiss businesses and has an action plan on developing economic relations to achieve this. A bilateral mixed economic commission meets on an annual basis to discuss the challenges encountered by Swiss and Russian companies.
The Swiss Business Hub, which is integrated within the Swiss embassy, advises Swiss companies intending to enter the Russian market and promotes Switzerland as a business location.
Although Switzerland condemns the annexation of Crimea, it is not directly involved in the ensuing sanctions from the crisis in Ukraine and the Skripal affair. Nonetheless, Switzerland makes every effort to prevent the circumvention of sanctions led by Europe and the US against Russia.
Cooperation in education and training
In the fields of education and science, Switzerland fosters close contacts with the relevant ministry and with several Russian universities and research institutes. It promotes exchanges and cooperation between education and research institutes in both countries and supports their potential for innovation. On 17 December 2012, Russia and Switzerland concluded a bilateral agreement on science and research, which has been extended for another five years.
Researchers and artists from Russia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland and Russia have been engaged in annual consultations on human rights issues since 2003. Switzerland supports several projects on human rights, in particular on detention conditions and prison healthcare provision.
Swiss officials also regularly discuss regional conflicts and peace policy with their Russian counterparts. At the multilateral level, cooperation takes place within the framework of international organisations, especially the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
In the field of humanitarian aid, Switzerland cooperates with the Russian disaster protection authorities.
Russia has great cultural heritage and a very lively and diverse cultural life. Cultural exchanges with Switzerland are vibrant. The Swiss embassy supports a wide range of cultural exchanges throughout Russia, particularly between film-makers, and promotes Switzerland's national languages in the country. It also provides Russians with information on Swiss culture.
To cater to increasing interest in cultural exchanges and to promote contacts among cultural institutions, Pro Helvetia opened an office in Moscow in 2017.
Swiss citizens in Russia
At the end of 2017, there were 781 Swiss citizens living in Russia, the majority of them living in the greater Moscow area, followed by St Petersburg.
Since November 2016, there has a been a regional consular centre attached to the embassy in Moscow, offering a range of consular services and providing consular protection to Swiss citizens travelling in Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus.
In 2017 the embassy issued over 24,000 visas.
History of bilateral relations
After the Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Russia supported Switzerland's re-emergence as an independent and neutral state. In 1814, Tsar Alexander I appointed Russia's first envoy to the Swiss Diet. A few years later, Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in St Petersburg. Diplomatic relations with Moscow were broken off in 1923 following the Russian Revolution and restored in 1946 after the Second World War. Since the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding in 2007, relations have expanded. A high point was the state visit to Switzerland of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2009.