Swiss parliament cancels visit by Putin ally on EU sanctions list

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss parliament said on Thursday it had cancelled a visit by the head of Russia's lower house of parliament next month due to Switzerland's neutrality and concerns over events in Ukraine.

Switzerland is set to celebrate 200 years of economic ties with Russia in the coming months, just as the stakes in a standoff over Ukraine are rising.

It has not joined the European Union and the United States in imposing sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine, but has said it wants to avoid being used to circumvent those sanctions.

On Thursday, parliament said it was withdrawing an invitation to Sergei Naryshkin, chairman of Russia's State Duma lower house and an ally of President Vladimir Putin, to visit Berne next month.

"The planned visit isn't opportune at the moment," the parliament said in a statement.

Naryshkin was one of 12 Russians and Ukrainians placed under sanctions by the EU in March over Moscow's takeover of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The West also accuses Russia of arming pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, something Moscow denies.

On Wednesday, Switzerland withdrew an invitation to Russia to participate in an air show near Lake Neuchatel.

(Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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