Switzerland and Russia have good relations that are based on respect. Switzerland is committed to maintaining dialogue with Russia and pursues an unbiased, even-handed policy where possible. This approach stems from Switzerland's conviction that the only way to find solutions to different regional conflicts is to maintain dialogue with Russia, which is a key global player.
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, and as a stakeholder in a number of regional and international conflicts, 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.
Russia is a large market with considerable potential for Swiss companies. 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 sanctions imposed in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine. Nonetheless, Switzerland makes every effort to prevent the circumvention of sanctions against Russia.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
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 to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship.
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 in Russia.
Swiss officials also regularly discuss the conflicts in the countries neighbouring Russia 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).
Russia has a 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 interested parties in Russia 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 2018, there were 732 Swiss nationals living in Russia, the majority of them living in the greater Moscow area, followed by St Petersburg. The Swiss embassy in Moscow has a consulate general in St Petersburg and two honorary consulates in Novosibirsk and Samara.
Since November 2016, there has also been a regional consular centre attached to the embassy, offering all the necessary consular services and providing consular protection to Swiss citizens travelling in Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus.
In 2018 the embassy issued around 20,000 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. Diplomatic relations with Moscow were broken off in 1923 following the Russian Revolution and restored in 1946 after the Second World War. Although Swiss-Russian relations have expanded since the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding in 2007, they suffered two setbacks in 2014 and 2018 – first, because of reasons including the illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and later, owing to the publicised cyber and espionage attacks on Swiss institutions carried out by the Russian secret service. Switzerland maintains an open dialogue with Russia on these and other issues.