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UKRAINE

UPDATE: How Switzerland could be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on Thursday and European countries were braced for any potential fallout. Here's a look at how seriously the war could impact Switzerland

UPDATE: How Switzerland could be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine
A Ukraine army soldier walks in the town of Schastia. Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP

After Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Swiss Foreign Affairs Ministry (FDFA) issued a swift statement saying that “Switzerland condemns the Russian attack on Ukraine and urges Russia to immediately cease military aggression and withdraw its troops”. 

“We are very concerned about the danger to innocent civilians”, (FDFA) added.

How will Switzerland be impacted by the political situation in Ukraine?

Switzerland doesn’t directly depend on any essential goods from the conflict-ridden areas, the impact on the country is expected to be minimal.

Russia sits in 34th place in the list of most important trading partners with Switzerland, between Mali and Taiwan. 

“But an armed conflict could indirectly lead to shortages,” according to Thomas Grünwald, spokesperson for  Federal Office for National Economic Supply (OFAE). That’s because international supply chains for food and fuel could be interrupted.

However, if the economy can no longer supply stores and service stations, the government will draw on its stock of “mandatory reserves” kept for emergencies, which should be sufficient for three to four months.

Coffee, opiates and nuclear fuel: What are Switzerland’s ‘strategic stockpiles’?

They include such non-perishables as sugar, rice, edible oils and bread grains, along with fertiliser for agriculture and fodder for livestock.

How reliant is Switzerland on Russian energy?

Russia is a major producer of oil and gas, although the direct impact of the conflict is unlikely to be significant for Switzerland. 

Around a quarter of Switzerland’s petroleum needs come from the Swiss refinery in Cressier. Russia supplies relatively little crude oil for this plant, with the majority coming from the United States, Nigeria and Libya. 

The remainder of Switzerland’s petrol imports, around 75 percent, is already refined, with the majority of that coming from France and Germany.

Swiss news outlet Watson reports that it is difficult to determine exactly how much of the refined petrol originally comes from Russia, although approximately 25 percent of the European Union’s crude imports are of Russian origin. 

While the reliance on Russian oil is comparatively minimal, Switzerland has a heavier reliance on Russian gas. 

Switzerland buys most of its gas through various European distribution centres, although an estimated 47 percent of this is of Russian origin. 

Although this appears to be a potential vulnerability, experts are not convinced the conflict will see Russia turn off the tap. 

Grünwald is convinced that “Russia will continue to honour its delivery contracts”, regardless of how the conflict plays out.

As a last resort, Switzerland would be able to buy petrol from other countries, especially the United States, while Switzerland could also increase its import of Norwegian and EU natural gas, which is currently at 24 percent and 19 percent respectively. 

READ MORE: Ukraine conflict: Will Switzerland impose sanctions on Russia?

Swiss companies working in both Russia and Ukraine also don’t expect any major consequences on their operations.

Among them is Stadler Rail: the Thurgau train manufacturer signed several “memorandums of understanding” with Ukrainian partners in 2021 regarding the development of the railways in that country.

The current crisis “could possibly lead to delays in the development of the market”, said said Gerda Königstorfer, group communications director.

The Zurich industrial group Sulzer, for its part, considers that its exposure to Russia and Ukraine is “minimal”. Russia accounted for only 3 percent of orders in 2021, and Ukraine for none.

“The impact for Sulzer in the event of sanctions is negligible.”

Other companies that could be somewhat affected include Zug-based Nord Stream. This international consortium counts the Russian group Gazprom among its shareholders. It is responsible for the construction of two pipelines.

At this early stage, no other substantial consequences are foreseen in Switzerland.

READ MORE:  Ukrainians in Europe: How will Russia’s invasion and the war impact your lives?

What about impact in tourism?

The country’s tourism body, Switzerland Tourism, is concerned that the armed conflict between the two Eastern European countries could  have repercussions on Swiss tourism.

Not only are tourism officials predicting fewer visitors from Russia, but they also fear that insecurity it creates will keep overseas visitors from coming to Europe altogether, considering such travel unsafe.

However, according to the tourism board’s  director Martin Nydegger, Switzerland’s tourism sector has weathered geopolitical crises before, proving to be resilient to such events, so the hope is there will not be much fallout either on the current ski season or summer travel.

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UKRAINE

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
“Sentimentai”.

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.

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