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UKRAINE

Why is Switzerland on Russia’s ‘enemy country’ list – and what does it mean?

On Monday, Switzerland was placed alongside several other western nations and all European Union members on a list of ‘enemy nations’ by Russia. But what is the actual impact of the list and why is Switzerland on it?

People lay flowers at the site where late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was fatally shot on a bridge near the Kremlin in central Moscow on February 27, 2022, on the seventh anniversary of his assassination. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP
People lay flowers at the site where late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was fatally shot on a bridge near the Kremlin in central Moscow on February 27, 2022, on the seventh anniversary of his assassination. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

Switzerland’s announcement that it would join the EU in placing sanctions on Russia led to widespread domestic support, despite some criticism from members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party. 

READ MORE: Switzerland placed on list of ‘enemy nations’ by Russia

While the announcement also won international plaudits, Russia has responded by placing Switzerland on a list of “enemy countries”. 

What is the list and who is on it? 

Those placed on the list on Monday include all EU countries, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, among others. 

Prior to the announcement, only the United States and the Czech Republic, an EU member, were on the list. 

The list was created in April 2021 pursuant to a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Why do countries get placed on the list? 

It is as yet unclear if a set of criteria exist for placing a country on the list, other than somehow offending Russia or taking action diplomatically. 

The US – which was also re-added to the list on Monday for supporting international sanctions – was on the list from April 2021 due to expelling Russian diplomats as a result of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and other state-sanctioned hacking efforts. 

READ MORE: Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

The Czech Republic was on the list prior to Monday’s announcement for expelling Russian diplomats in 2014 in response to an explosion in an ammunition depot in the east of the country, a charge which Russia denies. 

Why is Switzerland on the list?

The move was announced on Monday, with Russian authorities alleging those placed on the list had committed “unfriendly acts” against it. 

While Russian authorities did not specify exactly why these countries have been placed on the list, experts believe the move comes as a response to western sanctions imposed as a result of the invasion. 

In addition to the sanctions, Switzerland’s open support of Ukraine is likely to have frustrated Moscow. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent Switzerland a letter in early February asking Switzerland “which side it was on” with regard to Ukraine, Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports. 

Russia asked for a “quick and clear answer” from Switzerland with regard to the 1999 European Security Charter, which allows states to choose alliances which promote their own security. 

Switzerland answered the letter, saying all points of state security should be discussed within the framework of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 

What does it mean to be placed on the list?

The exact scope and impact of being placed on the list is also relatively unclear, although news agency Interfax reports that anyone in Russia wishing to deal with entities from countries on the list can only do so with government approval. 

“All business and transactions of Russian companies with citizens and companies from countries that are not friendly to Russia are now approved by the government commission for the supervision of foreign investments.”

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

The practical impact of this is likely to be relatively minimal however, with western companies already pulling out of Russia due to western sanctions. 

Germany’s Spiegel reports on Tuesday that another consequence of being placed on the list is that all debts and obligations will be paid in Russian roubles, regardless of the currency set under the agreement. 

This is likely to trouble entities which still deal with Russia, due to the rapidly falling value of the rouble since the sanctions were announced. 

Another consequence of being placed on the list is that all states wanting to do business in Russia need to set up a clearing account with a Russian bank. According to Spiegel: 

“The West had imposed sanctions on numerous Russian banks and also decided to exclude numerous financial institutions from the Swift banking communications network. This makes transfers and other banking transactions much more difficult.”

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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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