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UKRAINE

UPDATED: Pressure builds on Switzerland to deport ‘Putin’s mistress’

A petition has been launched for Switzerland to extradite former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is rumoured to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-time mistress and the mother of four of his children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hands flowers to Alina Kabayeva, Russian rhytmic gymnastics star and Olympic prize winner, after awarding her with an Order of Friendship during annual award ceremony in the Kremlin 08 June 2001. Photo: SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hands flowers to Alina Kabayeva, Russian rhytmic gymnastics star and Olympic prize winner, after awarding her with an Order of Friendship during annual award ceremony in the Kremlin 08 June 2001. Photo: SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP

Under the title “Switzerland, why are you sheltering the helpers of the Putin regime?”, the petition calls for the immediate extradition of Kabaeva to Russia. 

The petition compares Kabaeva and Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun. 

“It’s time you reunite Eva Braun with her Fuhrer,” says the petition, which had more than 70,000 signatures as at April 26th, with a goal of 75,000. 

Where in the world is Alina Kabaeva?

The 38-year-old gymnast, who has been pictured with the 69-year-old Putin on several occasions, is rumoured to have given birth to four children with the Russian leader. 

The first of which, a daughter, was born in the southern Swiss town of Lugano. 

According to US news outlet Page Six and British newspaper The Times, Kabaeva lives in a heavily fortified chalet in the Ticino alps in the south of the country. 

However, US officials said they believed Kabaeva lived “in a high-walled villa with a helipad” in Cologny, an upmarket suburb of Geneva, Swiss news media reports

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes said a statement from immigration authorities indicated Kabaeva did not have a residence permit to live in Switzerland. 

In late April, Kabaeva appeared at a gymnastics event in Moscow, which was adorned with Russia’s ‘Z’ symbol which has become synonymous with the Ukraine invasion. 

In her appearance, Kabaeva said “every family has a war story and we mustn’t forget it”, while linking the current invasion to the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War Two

Who is Kabaeva and will she be kicked out?

Kabaeva won a gold medal at the 2008 olympics and is rumoured to be romantically linked with Putin since 2008 after an article in the “Moskovskij Korrespondent”, which was later shut down after publishing the report. 

The online petition does not appear to have any legal influence over any migration or extradition decision made by Switzerland. 

Whether the former gymnast can be extradited firstly depends on whether she actually lives in Switzerland, with national broadcaster RTS reporting on Monday that federal justice officials believe she is not currently in Switzerland. 

“The FDJP has no indication of the presence of this person in Switzerland. The appropriate clarifications have been made.”

If Kabaeva is actually in Switzerland, she may be deported if it is deemed she is staying unlawfully in Switzerland, if she has committed criminal acts or if she is deemed a security threat. 

In practice, whether she will be deported is likely to depend in part on her citizenship status. 

Some media outlets have reported that Kabaeva has Swiss citizenship. Switzerland reserves the right to exercise its own citizens but does not do so in practice. 

Children born in Switzerland do not automatically receive Swiss citizenship, but can be deemed citizens if a parent has a Swiss passport. 

READ MORE: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Notoriously neutral Switzerland has backed EU sanctions against Russia, with Swiss President Ignazio Cassis repeatedly critical of Russia’s invasion. 

The Swiss government is expecting 50,000 refugees to arrive fleeing the conflict, although some estimates suggest the real number is likely to be higher. 

An estimated 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine in the month since the invasion, the majority of which are currently in neighbouring Poland. 

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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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