GENEVA (AP) — A Swiss parliamentary commission voted Tuesday to urge the government to systematically expel Russian and other spies who threaten Switzerland’s security through illegal intelligence activities.
The foreign affairs commission of the lower house of parliament passed the motion by 11 votes to 9, with one abstention. It amounts to a procedural step that would require broader authorization by the Swiss executive branch to take effect.
It comes as the Swiss legislature grappled with a flurry of Russia-related matters as its latest session gets under way. Switzerland has faced criticism from both Moscow and the West about its self-professed neutrality in international affairs against the backdrop of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s more than 18-month war against Ukraine.
The United States and some other Western countries are frustrated over Switzerland’s refusal to allow European partners to ship Swiss-made weaponry to Ukraine, among other complaints.
Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service has repeatedly signaled Russian spy activity in the wealthy Alpine country, where some Russian oligarchs have been known to gravitate for its low taxes, discretion and other reasons — and where international and U.N. organizations are active, notably in Geneva.
A majority of the commission cautioned against the threats posed by such foreign spying — Russia was mentioned by name — for Swiss companies, citizens and national interests, a parliamentary statement said.
Opponents, meanwhile, urged restraint in such use of expulsions as long as Swiss security wasn’t at risk, it said.
Separately, the parliamentary panel rejected by 13 votes to 10, with one abstention, a proposal for Switzerland to join the “Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs” — or REPO — task force created by the Group of Seven industrialized nations as a way to crack down on Russian interests and allies of Putin over his war in Ukraine.
Most of the commission lawmakers expressed the feeling that the task force was working well and a Swiss role wouldn’t bring any added value, the statement said.