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Ukraine conflict: Will Switzerland impose sanctions on Russia?

The conflict on the Russian-Ukrainian border continues to escalate. How will Switzerland respond?

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and former President Guy Parmelin. DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP
Russian leader Vladimir Putin and former President Guy Parmelin. DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP

Russia’s recognition of the ‘independence’ of two rebel-held Ukrainian regions and continued threats of invasion have led to a range of diplomatic repercussions. 

Germany has already paused the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, while the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom have announced wide ranging sanctions to bring Russia into line. 

Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union or NATO but maintains close ties with both, has been heavily critical of Russia’s actions, saying they are a “a blatant violation of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

“Switzerland does not recognise the independence of these areas (Donetsk and Luhansk). They remain part of Ukrainian territory,” Swiss State Secretary Livia Leu told the media on Tuesday. 

Switzerland however indicated on Tuesday that any possible sanctions would be exercised in conjunction with the EU rather than unilaterally. 

‘Unilateral sanctions would not make much sense’

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said Switzerland would act in conjunction with the international community. 

“Unilateral sanctions would not make much sense for a small player like Switzerland,” said Leu on Tuesday. 

“Security in Europe affects us all. An armed conflict could mean refugees, but also disruptions to the economy.”

Leu said Switzerland would not automatically adopt EU sanctions but would make a decision when the nature of the sanctions became clearer. 

The Federal Council is set to make a decision on Wednesday regarding whether or not to adopt the measures proposed by the EU. 

“The EU and the US have said clearly that sanctions would be applied as soon as there was a military intervention. From when this applies is a question of political assessment.”

Leu reaffirmed that while it “had strong respect” for sanctions proposed by the US and the UK, “Switzerland is fundamentally concerned with the decisions of the EU.”

Member comments

  1. While Russia has breached the Minsk Agreement since 2014 the Donbass region of Donetsk and Lugansk have been threatened by Ukrainian forces, clearly Russia felt there was no other way to cease the fighting there without committing troops to the region. Now Ukraine will be less willing to strike at the Russian speaking separatists.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.