• The Audemars Piguet watches were taken by Russia's FSB security service agents
  • Russian officials said they took the watches because of customs offenses
  • Audemars Piguet is one of the many brands that suspended all operations in Russia amid the war

Russian agents have seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow in what appears to be retaliation for Swiss sanctions banning luxury goods exports amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The watches were taken by Russia’s FSB security service Tuesday. Each watch can cost more than £700,000, Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported, citing independent sources and a Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs memo detailing the raid conducted by the Russians.

Russian officials said the watches were taken due to customs offenses. However, officials for the Swiss foreign affairs department said the move was likely a response to Switzerland’s decision to abandon its neutral stance and follow the West in imposing sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

It is unclear what Switzerland plans to do in response to Russia taking Audemars Piguet watches. Officials for the Swiss foreign affairs department have refused to comment on the issue, adding that their silence will help ensure the safety of the employees working for Swiss companies in Russia.

Officials from Audemars Piguet have also yet to speak about the incident. The watchmaker was one of the hundreds of brands to halt its exports to Russia and suspend all retail operations in the country after President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine.

Switzerland first announced sanctions against Russia on March 25. The sanctions prohibit the exporting of goods and related services for the Russian energy sectors. Additionally, importing of iron and steel goods from Russia and the exporting of luxury goods and maritime navigation goods to Russia are also banned.

The Swiss government also froze any assets belonging to Putin, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Switzerland has also closed its airspace for any flights from Russia.

“Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with Ukraine and its people; it will be delivering relief supplies for people who have fled to Poland,” Switzerland said in a statement. “The ban on imports, exports and investments concerning Crimea and Sevastopol, which has been in place since 2014, has been extended to the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are no longer under the control of the Ukrainian government.”

Despite a lack of official statistics, thousands of Russians are reported to have left their country since the invasion
Despite a lack of official statistics, thousands of Russians are reported to have left their country since the invasion LEHTIKUVA via AFP / Seppo Samuli