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RUSSIA

Russia and Ukraine trade barbs over Swiss death

Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels clashed Friday around the flashpoint city of Donetsk, while trading blame over the death of a Swiss aid worker, four weeks into their shaky truce.

Russia and Ukraine trade barbs over Swiss death
People wait for food outside Red Cross building in Mariupol, Ukraine, south of Donetsk. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov accused insurgents of breaking the ceasefire "over a thousand times", while the military claimed that Russian military specialists were reinforcing rebel positions.
   
The deadly shelling of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Donetsk, which prompted a firm rebuke from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was an "act of terror", Kiev said, blaming rebels who control the city.
   
"This terrorist act cannot be justified," Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement on the death of the 38-year-old Geneva-based ICRC employee.

Kiev's military said the rebels had repeatedly fired on central Donetsk "to discredit the anti-terrorist operation."
   
Kiev also accused the insurgents of firing shells that hit a school bus and nearby bus station on the first day of classes in Donetsk on Wednesday, killing ten civilians.
   
However, Russia and the rebels both accused Ukrainian forces for the Red Cross worker's death.
   
"The Ukrainian army is firing at Donetsk for the second day in a row from Uragan (Hurricane multiple rocket launcher) systems," Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told AFP.
   
"Firing from such systems is not targeted. They simply hit a general area, along with everyone in it," he said, adding that the strike most likely originated from Krasnogorovka, a town 20 kilometres west of Donetsk.
   
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich echoed Purgin, saying the fire came from positions controlled by Ukrainian soldiers and calling for a full investigation.
   
"In Kiev they didn't want to admit the obvious: the area of Donetsk that came under fire is under control of rebels and the shelling came from positions occupied by Ukrainian forces," the Russian ministry spokesman said.
 

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UKRAINE

Shareholder group urges Switzerland’s Nestle to halt all Russia business

Nestle must halt all its activities in Russia, the Actares shareholder organisation said Monday, ramping up the pressure after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky singled out the Swiss food giant.

Shareholder group urges Switzerland's Nestle to halt all Russia business

Nestle has suspended all its imports and exports to Russia, including Nespresso coffee pods and S.Pellegrino bottled water, but has maintained deliveries of vital products such as baby food.

In a speech live-streamed to a rally outside the Swiss federal parliament in Bern on Saturday, Zelensky urged Swiss companies to cease doing business in Russia, picking out Nestle, and condemned firms that carried on regardless despite the siege of Mariupol.

“Actares — shareholding for a more responsible economy — urges Nestle to consider President Zelensky’s call in the Federal Square to stop doing business with Russia!”, the group, one of Switzerland’s top shareholders’ associations, said in a statement.

Nestle insisted Sunday that it was not making any profits in Russia, winding down many of the firm’s activities in the country following the Kremlin-ordered invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on February 24.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s Zelensky blasts Swiss banks in address to Bern rally

“We have stopped all our investments there and have ceased all our advertising activities,” a spokeswoman told AFP. “We do not make any profit from our remaining operations in Russia.

“We are doing everything possible in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to help alleviate this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Several US multinationals have withdrawn from Russia, like the fast food chain McDonald’s and the beverage giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Nestle has been the subject of a call for a boycott circulating on social media networks.

On Monday, Zelensky called on European leaders to cease all trade with Russia in an effort to pressure Moscow to halt its nearly month-long military assault on Ukraine.

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