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UKRAINE

Switzerland’s Nestle pulls products from Russia after Zelensky criticism

Just days after Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s harsh critique of Swiss banks and companies for continuing to operate in Russia, Nestle said it will suspend the sale of major brands.

Switzerland’s Nestle pulls products from Russia after Zelensky criticism

In a publicly televised address on Saturday, Zelensky hit out at international firms who continued to operate in Russia “even though our children are dying”. 

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 via video link to a rally outside the Swiss parliament in Bern, Zelensky condemned firms that maintained business as usual despite the siege of several Ukrainian cities. 

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”. 

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

On Wednesday, Nestle released a statement saying they would suspend most of their activities in Russia due to the invasion. 

While several other international firms had already announced they were suspending their operations in Russia, Nestle had continued to operate. 

Nestle said it would stop producing and selling some of the better known company brands such as Nesquick and Kit Kat in Russia. 

However, it would continue to produce and sell some essential products, like baby formula and medical products. 

Nestle said it expected to operate “on a non-profit basis” for the foreseeable future in Russia, but any proceeds it generated would be donated to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Nestle also said it stood by its 5,800 employees in Ukraine and had so far donated hundreds of tonnes of food. 

Two of the three factories in Ukraine will continue to remain operational. Those in Lviv and Lutsk will stay open, but that in the hard-hit city of Kharkiv has been closed and repurposed into a food distribution hub to supply the local population. 

Nestle did not address why the decision was eventually made to curtail dealings in Russia. 

Pressure was building on Nestle internally as well, with Actares, a shareholder group, calling upon them to join an international boycott on operating in Russia. 

READ MORE: Shareholder group urges Switzerland’s Nestle to halt all Russia business

Several other Swiss companies including Swatch and Rolex have ceased operations in Russia, although Credit Suisse continues to maintain several ties to Russia. 

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said on Wednesday a decision to leave was being considered. 

“We are now examining the situation. It’s a very serious situation. We’ll see what that means for our work over the next few months. I haven’t made a decision yet.”

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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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