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UKRAINE

How Swiss weapons are being used on both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict

Despite the government following an official policy of neutrality, Swiss-made weapons are being used by fighters on both sides of the conflict. Closer to home, Swiss politicians are debating rearmament domestically.

Members of the Swiss military lined up performing exercises. Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash
Swiss weapons are reportedly being used on both sides of the conflict after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to fierce fighting in and around several of the country’s largest cities. 

According to observers, forces on both sides of the conflict are using Swiss weapons – with the weapons produced by the same manufacturer. 

Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass have been seen using Swiss submachine guns so far in the conflict, Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports

The manufacturer, B&T AG from the town of Thun in the canton of Bern, confirmed the sale of the weapons to Ukraine, saying these were approved by Swiss authorities and were originally delivered in connection with the 2012 European Football Championships. 

EXPLAINED: Understanding Switzerland’s obsession with guns

B&T has also sold MP9 submachine guns to Russian special forces, which have used them since 2015 in the Donbass region. 

The owner of the weapons manufacturer, Karl Brügger, has previously come under fire for breaching Switzerland’s War Material Act by selling sniper rifles and grenade launchers which were to be used in Kazakstan. 

Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger reports that B&T weapons are likely not the only Swiss arms being used in the conflict. 

Over the past 20 years, Ukraine and Russia have bought CHF5.9 million worth of Swiss weapons. 

The Swiss government confirmed in an official report that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine bought submachine guns of Swiss origin. 

MPs debate the rearmament of Switzerland

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a number of Swiss politicians and security experts are concerned about the country’s safety and readiness to defend itself.

“Switzerland has woken up from the dream of eternal peace,” said Dominik Knill, president of the Swiss Society of Officers. For security expert Niklas Mashur, Russia’s  invasion will influence the debate on increasing defense preparedness and armament budgets.

Among the MPs, some are already calling for more military spending.

“The current situation in Eastern Europe shows that the increase in budget is absolutely necessary”, said Werner Salzmann, chairman of the  parliamentary Security Policy Commission.

Another MP, Thomas Hurter, is also pushing not only for a higher budget, but more soldiers as well.

“The army is there to protect and defend the population against possible external attacks. This principle has been too neglected in recent years”, he said.

14th-largest exporter in the world

Switzerland has seen significant increases in weapons exports in recent years. 

In 2020, the last year on record, Switzerland exported CHF902 million worth of war material, a 24 percent increase on 2019. 

While that may appear significant, it still only represents 0.7 percent of the total global military equipment exports, estimates the Stockholm International Peace Institute

This made Switzerland the 14th largest exporter of arms in the world. 

Efforts to curb Switzerland’s military exports at the ballot box have failed in recent years, with successive referendums thrown out by Swiss voters. 

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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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