Kerry arrives in Basel for Ukraine crisis talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Basel on Wednesday evening for a meeting of foreign ministers from 50 member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to focus on the spiralling Ukraine crisis.

Kerry arrives in Basel for Ukraine crisis talks
Photo: Jonathan Perfect/OSCE

Kerry is set to meet Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov as a long-awaited truce around an airport in rebel-held Donetsk in eastern Ukraine appeared under threat, just hours after it was agreed.
The US and Russian top diplomats, who most recently spoke in late November during talks in Vienna on Iran's nuclear programme, are set to "discuss a range of topics of mutual interest including issues related to the Middle East", according to a US official.
The 57-member OSCE, headed by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, is in charge of monitoring a shaky overall ceasefire between the Ukrainian army and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine reached in September.

Kerry's flight defied heavy fog over the northern Swiss city and landed shortly before 7pm.

He was whisked to the Basel Exhbition Centre where the OSCE will kick off the two-day ministerial meeting on Thursday.

While Ukraine is a focus of the ministerial meeting, the diplomats will debate 20 draft declarations on security issues and concerns.

A parallel "civil society" conference got under way on Wednesday in Basel. 

Kerry, who flew in from Brussels, where he took part in a meeting of the US-led coalition against the jihadist Islamic State group, later met acting OSCE chairman Burkhalter.

Kerry later flies to London for a conference on Afghanistan.

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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.