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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Swiss MPs demand harder line against Russian spies

By AFP
May 28, 2024
Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty has told MPs a group linked to Russian intelligence has ‘selectively leaked and amplified the release of sensitive information’. — Parliament TV/file
Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty has told MPs a group linked to Russian intelligence has ‘selectively leaked and amplified the release of sensitive information’. — Parliament TV/file 

GENEVA: Swiss lawmakers on Monday called on the government to take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country -- a centre of international activity considered a hub for espionage.

After a vote in the lower house of parliament last year, the upper house voted overwhelmingly on Monday for the systematic expulsion of spies deemed a threat to Switzerland´s national security or its diplomatic standing.

32 members voted in favour of the move, with nine against and two abstentions. The vote targeted what is feared to be a growing number of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow´s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

During the debate, parliamentarians highlighted how spies often figure in the diplomatic corps, and can take advantage of diplomatic immunity. Switzerland´s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.

FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives. “Switzerland, as the seat of international organisations and a state in the middle of Europe, is an attractive location for intelligence services,” Socialist party lawmaker Roth Franziska said during Monday´s debate.