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UKRAINE

How Switzerland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and how you can help

Swiss government has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and messages of support — both symbolic and concrete — are pouring in from all parts of the country.

How Switzerland reacted to Russia's invasion of Ukraine - and how you can help
Refugees gather on the Ukrainian-Polish border. Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP

The Federal Council condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Additionally, Russian individuals and entities on a European Union blacklist will not be able to use Swiss banks to circumvent European sanctions against Russia, Switzerland’s Financial Supervisory Authority (Finma) said on Friday.

As of 6 pm on Friday evening, financial intermediaries in Switzerland were prohibited from entering into new business relationships with the individuals and companies on the sanctions list, and must immediately report existing business relationships, Finma said in a statement.

“Further steps to strengthen these measures are currently being prepared”.

Earlier, the Swiss government added to its watchlist 363 new Russian individuals and four companies that the EU had put on its sanctions list.

Switzerland also elected to join the EU in imposing sanctions on Russia, saying doing nothing would not be consistent with its long-held policy of neutrality. 

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

Will Switzerland take in Ukrainian refugees?

The number of refugees to enter Europe from Ukraine could reach around four million, the EU announced at a news conference in Brussels.

Some have already poured into neighbouring Poland, with others expected to end up in other European countries.

Switzerland has also pledged to take in Ukrainian refugees. 

While the country does not lie in immediate geographic proximity to Ukraine, “we will not let the Ukrainians down”, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter, said on Friday. 

Early on, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said the country could take in up to 2,000 Ukrainian refugees, “depending on the evolution of the conflict”.

“Switzerland has the will to show solidarity. An emergency plan is available in the event of major migratory movements”, according to SEM.

As at March 8th, this has since been expanded to 5,000 official places for refugees. By end of March, this number was increased to 60,000

Refugees from Ukraine arriving in Switzerland have been told to apply at one of six processing centres located across the country in Geneva, Zurich, Bern, St Gallen, Basel and Ticino. 

The government has already indicated they will be eligible to obtain a right of residence without having to go through an ordinary asylum procedure.

Anyone wanting to take in Ukrainian refugees at home can put their name on the following list.

Switzerland on Friday announced it would activate the ’S-Permit’, which facilitates emergency protection.

The S-Permit allows people to live and work in Switzerland for a year, with the possibility of extension.

Switzerland’s special ‘S permit’ visa program: What Ukrainians need to know

More information about the permit is available here.

Pro-Ukrainian demonstrations

Aside from the official measures, Switzerland’s population has also rallied behind Ukraine.

Early in March, around 20,000 people gathered in Bern to express their solidarity with Ukraine and condemn Russia.

While this was, to date, the largest pro-Ukraine demonstration in Switzerland, other rallies also took place over the weekend. Several hundred  protested in front of the United Nations in Geneva, with more expected in Bellinzona (TI), Basel and Lucerne.

Private initiatives

More than 11,000 private individuals have volunteered to host refugees in their homes, amounting to an estimated 31,000 beds, as at March 8th. 

As reported by Swiss media, countless individuals embarked on the 1,700-km drive from Switzerland to the Ukrainian border in order to provide donations and pick up refugees. 

How to donate money, clothes and other items

Discussions on various Swiss forums, including on one managed by The Local, are focusing on how to help people in Ukraine.

Most have suggested donating money through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or other credible aid organisations in Switzerland.

The Swiss Refugee Council can be contacted here, while community legal centres such as this one in Zurich have asked for financial support to allow them to provide advice and assistance to arriving refugees. 

Ukrainian community organisations in Basel and Bern, groups have been created to collect medical and other donations to bring to Ukraine. Click the links for more information. 

On Monday, February 28th, The Local set up a fund for media in Ukraine, understanding the threats they currently face. 

The Local is convinced that this solidarity with Ukraine is not just right but crucial, and thanks to the support of our members we are happy to be able to make a €20,000 donation to the fundraiser.

People across the globe have also embraced some novel ways of helping those in Ukraine, for instance by booking out their flats on AirBnB without staying, thereby providing them with a source of income. 

More information about The Local’s fundraising efforts is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: How you can help Ukrainian media 

Here’s how you can donate to help civilian population in Ukraine:

ICRC

Swiss Solidarity

SOS Children’s Villages

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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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