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Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

A possible referendum on Swiss neutrality, why some municipal swimming pools are not heated and other news from Switzerland on Monday.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday
Brrr, it's COLD! One way to boycott Russian gas is not to heat swimming pools. Photo by: Pixabay

Voters may have to decide on Swiss neutrality

Recent war-related moves such as imposition of sanctions on Russia, along with suggestions from some MPs to allow arms deliveries to Ukraine, raise up questions about  Switzerland’s long-standing tradition of neutrality.

These events have prompted some Swiss MPs from all sides of the political spectrum to suggest a referendum, so the question of neutrality can be decided by the voters.

One deputy, Hans-Peter Portmann, told SonntagsZeitung that “while neutrality is anchored in the Constitution, the laws lack provisions on how Switzerland should behave as a neutral country”.

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

How some Swiss towns boycott Russian gas

Two municipalities in the German-speaking part of Switzerland are giving Russia a cold shoulder — literally.

Officials in Zurich’s district of Schlieren announced they will not heat the municipal swimming pool as “we no longer wanted to continue to finance Putin’s war”.

To compensate for the lack of warm water, the entrance to the swimming pool will be free until the end of May, and from June on it will cost 30 percent less than the usual price of admission.

Authorities of Langenthal (Bern) have also decided not to heat their pool, for the same reason. Instead, the municipality will use solar panels to keep the water warm.

Switzerland and Ukraine discuss aid, post-war reconstruction

President Ignazio Cassis and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky discussed on Saturday the scope of Switzerland’s humanitarian aid to the war-torn country, as well as Swiss contribution to restoring peace in Ukraine.

One interim measure under discussions was the possibility of Switzerland offering its ‘good offices’ by providing consular services to Ukrainian citizens living in Russia, as Ukraine no longer maintains diplomatic relations with Moscow.

This would be in line with the role Switzerland already plays in representing Georgian interests in Russia, and vice-versa.

READ MORE: ‘Protective power’: Why neutral Switzerland refuses to expel Russian diplomats

Also, Switzerland will host the conference on Ukraine in Lugano on July 4th and 5th, devoted to the reconstruction of the country.

The connection between Switzerland and Putin’s mistress becomes clearer

Since the start of the war, the alleged clandestine family of the Russian president has fuelled a number of mostly unsubstantiated speculations.

At the centre are Putin’s alleged relationship with a former gymnast Alina Kabaeva and the alleged children they produced together — three, four or six, depending on the source — some or all of whom allegedly live(d) in a luxurious, high-security chalet in the Alps.

It turns out that “this maelstrom of rumours contains at least a grain of truth”: according to Tribune de Genève, a Russian-Swiss doctor helped Kabaeva give birth to two boys, the first of whom was born in 2015 at the Sant’Anna clinic in Sorengo, a municipality near Lugano, in Ticino.

The second child was born in Moscow in 2019, with the help of the same doctor.  

While both boys are believed to be Putin’s, the subject has always been taboo for the Russian media. A Moscow newspaper which revealed the affair between the president and Kabaeva in 2008, was shut down.

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

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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For members


Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

From a solid approval of all the issues in Sunday's referendum to higher beverage prices: find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

The Swiss say ‘yes’ to three proposals in Sunday’s referendum

Voters in Switzerland have accepted all three of the Federal Council’s proposals, rejecting, at the same time, opponents’ arguments.

The law making organ donation opt out across the country was approved by 60.20 percent, providing more money and staff to controversial EU border protection agency Frontex passed with 71.48 percent, and Lex Netflix – which makes streaming services pay a percentage fee to support Swiss filmmaking – passed with 58.42 percent.

READ MORE: Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Read about the reactions in Switzerland to the vote results in our article to be published later today.

Price of beverages is soaring in Switzerland

Another popular product is becoming more expensive: non-alcoholic beverages.

“The price of PET [bottle] is skyrocketing, and with it that of mineral water and soft drinks”, according to a report in 20 Minuten.

“And there is a risk of further price increases.”

For instance, prices per litre of mineral water are now 5 to 10 cents higher, depending on the retailer. 

Of the four major retailers that the newspaper surveyed — Migros, Coop, Aldi and Lidl — only Coop has not yet increased the price of beverages, although its spokesperson conceded the company “cannot currently rule out price adjustments,” due to higher cost of raw materials, the shortage of packaging material, and the increased transport and energy costs.

Beverages have joined a growing list of other everyday products whose prices have increased due to inflation and war in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

Migros gets tough on “unscrupulous” customers

Due to a growing number of shoplifters, some self-service Migros stores in Zurich are installing special barriers allowing only those who pay for their purchases to exit the store.

Customers who pay at self-checkout terminals must now scan the QR code of their receipt to open a barrier and leave with their purchases.

This is a rather drastic measure, “as Migros and Coop have so far relied on individual responsibility and random checks”, according to Tagblatt newspaper.

Russians critical of the Putin regime want to remain in Switzerland

A number of Russian women in Switzerland, who have criticised the war on social media and are therefore afraid of repercussions from the Kremlin, are asking the Federal Council to grant them asylum.

“I can understand that these women are concerned,” said Ulrich Schmid, Professor of Russian Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen. “It is possible that the Russian secret service reports on people who are critical of the war”.

Should Russian deserters and opponents of the war get asylum in Switzerland? MPs’ views diverge.

For a Green MP Balthasar Glättli, Switzerland should grant these war objectors humanitarian visas.

However, according to Thomas Aeschi from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), “Switzerland should treat all asylum seekers equally”, pointing out there are many people in other countries “who are also threatened”.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Russians who remain in Switzerland can apply to their canton of residence to extend their existing residence permit. “It will be checked whether they meet the legal requirements for this”, SEM said.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do Russians now have to leave Switzerland?

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]