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UKRAINE

Ukraine’s Zelensky blasts Swiss banks in address to Bern rally

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday blasted firms including Nestle for carrying on business as usual with Russia "even though our children are dying", in a live address to a Swiss rally. 

Ukraine's Zelensky blasts Swiss banks in address to Bern rally
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is displayed on a giant screen after delivering a live voice message during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Swiss House of Parliament in Bern, on March 19, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Zelensky urged Swiss companies to stop doing business in Russia and told the country’s banks to freeze funds belonging to the Kremlin elite. 

Speaking to a rally outside the Swiss parliament in Bern, Zelensky condemned firms that maintained business as usual despite the siege of Mariupol. 

The thousands of demonstrators gathered in the square in front of the Federal Palace heard Zelensky’s nine-minute speech translated in German, though technical problems interrupted the video from Kyiv. 

Zelensky criticised Swiss companies for continuing to do business in Russia, singling out food giant Nestle. 

The company’s slogan is “good food, good life”, he said. 

“Business works in Russia even though our children are dying and our cities are being destroyed,” and while people in Mariupol were “without food, without water, without electricity, under bombardment”. 

Zelensky said it was “painful” that those behind the conflict had funds stashed in Switzerland. 

“The money of the people who unleashed this war is in your banks. Help fight this. So that their funds are frozen,” he said, urging them to join the “fight against evil”. 

Zelensky called for them to be stripped of their properties and privileges, to cheers from the crowd. 

The number of rich Russians resident in Switzerland has grown in recent years. 

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis joined Ukrainian and other diplomats on a stage above a banner reading “Solidarity with Ukraine. Stop the war now.” 

“I’m deeply impressed, dear Volodymyr, from your willingness to resist, from your willingness to go ahead, and from your willingness and the willingness of your population to overcome this terrific crisis,” he told Zelensky. 

Cassis said he hoped the guns would soon fall silent and said Switzerland was prepared to mediate or host negotiations. 

The Swiss president said he would visit the Polish border with Ukraine on Monday.  Earlier, in a newspaper article, Cassis said Russia’s war in Ukraine was driven by “devastating madness” and said Switzerland was prepared to pay the price for defending freedom and democracy, matching EU sanctions on Russia. 

Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Geneva, told the crowd in Bern: “What is happening in Ukraine is an attack not only on Ukraine, on Ukrainian people, it’s an attack on all of us. 

“We have to work together to ensure that these atrocities stop and will never happen again.  “Thank-you, Switzerland for you help to Ukraine and Ukrainians. Together we will win.” 

SEE ALSO: Switzerland brands war in Ukraine ‘devastating madness’

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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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