Around 35 volunteers, including 3 Swiss citizens, have contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Switzerland about joining the war effort in Ukraine, reported 20 Minutes. However, Swiss citizens engaging in a foreign war risk up to three years in prison.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken of a 16,000 strong battalion of foreign volunteers and encouraged those who are willing to fight to sign up at Ukrainian embassies. A number of people in the UK, Canada, Japan, Norway, Belgium and the US have already done so and are on their way to Ukraine.
However, Swiss citizens are legally barred from fighting in foreign conflicts. According to Florian Menzi, a spokesperson for the military justice department, Swiss citizens responding to Zelensky’s call to fight risk three years in prison. In addition, it does not matter whether people serve in a medical or support capacity or are involved in combat. Service in a foreign military in banned for all Swiss citizens, he said.
Three cases have already been brought against people who were involved in fighting in Ukraine since 2014, according to Menzi.
Tobias Vestner, a military law expert, thinks it is right that Switzerland prevents it citizens from fighting as mercenaries. Mercenary activity and active state support of it is highly dangerous, according to the expert. The problem is that it is impossible to say whether a person has been sent as part of a special commando unit or whether they went on their own initiative. If they are deemed to have been sent by the state their actions could be considered a declaration of war.
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What if they are dual Swiss/Ukrainian citizens?