The conflict over food supplies in Russia by the Swiss company Nestle develops into a large-scale diplomatic campaign. In response to the Swiss complaints in the Russian government, Chief medical officer of Russia has threatened them to go to law for slander, and the Swiss themselves are afraid that Nestle case is only the beginning of economic sanctions from Russia, due to the desire of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to protect the interests of the businessman Viktor Vekselberg. The conflict threatens the withdrawal of Russian assets from Switzerland, GZT.ru reported.
Head of Rospotrebnadzor Gennady Onishchenko said that "he does not exclude recourse to the court in connection with the statements of Ambassador of Switzerland in Russia, Walter Giger, which are beyond the common courtesy." When asked which words of Ambassador were outrageous, Onishchenko said he did not want to "reveal secrets”. He acknowledged only that the offensive words concerned the claims of Rospotrebnadzor to the company Nestle, one of the largest food producers of the world.
Swiss Embassy refused to comment on the situation and to clarify the words of Walter Giger which offended Gennady Onishchenko. Ambassador wrote a letter to the Russian government in defense of Nestle, in which Onishchenko could be discussed, a source familiar with the situation suggested.
On Friday, May 14, Baltinfo agency reported on the words of Onishchenko, that the letter addressed to Vice-premier Igor Shuvalov had been written by the leadership of the Swiss group Nestle. The letter also reportedly contained a complaint against the company's chief sanitary doctor.
Board member in Nestle Andrey Bader has confirmed that his company filed a formal letter addressed to Shuvalov at the global headquarters level in Switzerland.
"This appeal is due to the fact that international executives and shareholders are concerned about harsh statements appearing in interviews with Gennady Onishchenko about the quality of internationally recognized products, as well as the company’s enterprises in Russia, in which Nestle for 15 years has invested over 950 million dollars", Andrey Bader said.
The Swiss have their own view of the situation. The Moscow correspondent of the Swiss weekly newspaper Sonntag Patrick Mueller visited Moscow Embassy of Alpine country last week; he expressed the view in an article published on Sunday, May 16.
According to the newspaper, on March 25, head of the group Renova Viktor Vekselberg wrote to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a letter complaining of persecution by the financial authorities of Switzerland.
Earlier this year, the Federal Department of Finance of Switzerland has accused the head of the group Victor Vekselberg in violation of the law on disclosure of information when buying shares of the Swiss high technology company Oerlikon in 2006. For this violation Vekselberg has been exhibited a fine of 40 million Swiss francs (about $ 38 million). It is the largest fine in the history of Switzerland.
Vekselberg is co-Chairman of the Russian Foundation of Silicon Valley in Skolkovo, which is now the main hopes of the Russian authorities on the country's rapid technological advances. Purchase of the Swiss Oerlikon was one of the important arguments in favor of appointing one of the richest men in Russia as the project manager.
According to the sources of Sonntag, Putin responded to the application by Vekselberg "quickly and consistently". He allegedly sent a letter to his First Deputy Igor Shuvalov containing a resolution "to propose what we can do."
Renova did not recognize the claim to be meritorious and perceived the penalty as "insulting," Sonntag said with reference to the representative of Renova. Vekselberg's company has invested in the Swiss economy two-thirds of its foreign investments (about 3 billion Swiss francs).
"Damage to the Swiss economy can be measured in billions," President of Cooperation Council Switzerland-Russia Shtrauffaher Verne, participant of the Embassy reception said to Sonntag about the perspectives of economic sanctions by Russia.
"Today a real problem has appeared, which spoils the wonderful Russian-Swiss relations. The problem can be solved by political means only," Shtrauffaher told correspondent of Sonntag.
According to Shtrauffaher, in case the court confirms the fines that the financial authorities of his country has threatened Renova with, the Swiss company might have problems in Russia. The conflict might cause withdrawal of Russian assets from Switzerland.
According to Sonntag, Shtrauffaher's fears are shared by Swiss ambassador to Russia, as well as by Beatrice Chants, former director of communications at Swissair. According to the Swiss, the relationship between Bern and Moscow gets escalated.