June 23. 2024. 1:44

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Swiss pharma exports to Russia soar despite sanctions

Switzerland has matched the 10 rounds of ever-tightening sanctions imposed by the European Union since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Though Swiss trade with Russia has come to a standstill in many key sectors, notably machines and watches, pharmaceutical exports are at a record high, the Neue Zurcher Zeitung am Sonntag newspaper said after analysing figures from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security.

Medicines are considered humanitarian goods and are exempt from sanctions.

Switzerland exported goods worth 2.9 billion Swiss francs (€2.94 billion) to Russia between March 2022 and February 2023.

That is down from the 3.5 billion Swiss francs in the preceding 12 months, but exports have only exceeded 2.9 billion francs three times in recent years, the NZZ am Sonntag said.

“Given the long list of goods that can no longer be shipped to the warring country, the impact seems soberingly small,” the weekly said.


Pharmaceutical exports have spiked by about 40%, from around 1.4 billion Swiss francs to around two billion francs since the invasion — and now account for about a third of all Swiss exports to Russia.

Switzerland is home to many large pharmaceutical companies including Novartis and Roche.

The NZZ am Sonntag quoted Novartis as saying: “Sales in Russia were driven by a number of factors, including the influx of patients who had delayed medical treatment due to the pandemic.”

“One factor was the stockpiling by patients and hospitals in anticipation of possible bottlenecks,” the company added, regarding the war.

Despite honouring EU sanctions on Russia, landlocked Switzerland’s long-standing military position is one of well-armed, strict neutrality.

But the issue has been hotly debated since full-scale warfare returned to Europe.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to re-export it to Ukraine.