Russian embassy warns Swiss canton not to cancel victory celebration

The Russian Embassy in Bern has warned authorities in the Swiss canton of Basel-City not to cancel a Victory Day memorial service which takes place every year on May 9th at Hörnli cemetery.

Russian Sukhoi Su-25 assault aircrafts release smoke in the colours of the Russian flag while flying over Moscow during a rehearsal for the WWII Victory Parade.
Russian Sukhoi Su-25 assault aircrafts release smoke in the colours of the Russian flag while flying over Moscow during a rehearsal for the WWII Victory Parade. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

On May 9th, Russia celebrates ‘Victory Day’ in commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany. Every year, a memorial service is also held at Basel’s Hörnli cemetery, where four Soviet soldiers who died in Switzerland during World War II are buried.

The burial site is maintained by the Russian Embassy and the ceremony is usually attended by the Russian Ambassador.

However, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, there have been growing calls from journalists and Swiss citizens to cancel the celebration, who claim that the event is a gathering of Putin supporters.

In a message published on its website, the Russian Embassy has condemned the “anti-Russian frenzy” and warned against cancellation.

It is by no means a “propaganda event”, it said, and participants would only wear “portraits of their parents, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers who fought in the Second World War.”

The Basel government has since decided that the celebrations can go ahead – but under strict conditions. Government spokesman Marco Greiner told the Basler Zeitung: “there will be a limited, small group of people around the ambassador.”

The time of the ceremony has also not been publicly communicated, but Greiner said: “there will be security arrangements.” Greiner added that the Basel government will not attend the event.

READ ALSO: Switzerland preparing to host Zelensky’s first trip since invasion

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Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

Switzerland has implemented its sixth set of sanctions against Russia, which are primarily targeted at oil imports.

Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

The measures, decided by the EU on June 3rd, came into force in Switzerland at 6 pm on Wednesday, the Federal Council announced.

They include an embargo on crude oil and certain refined petroleum products from Russia.

“Similar to the measures applicable in the EU, the purchase, import, transit and transport to or within Switzerland are prohibited”, the government said.  

“In addition, the embargo provides for a ban on the provision of services, including insurance or reinsurance, in connection with the transport of oil and certain Russian petroleum products”.  

The provision of services such as accounting, public relations and business consultancy to the Russian government is now also banned, in addition to advertising content produced or broadcast by official Russian media such as Russia Today or Sputnik.

Swiss government under fire for Ukraine action

The Swiss government has faced criticism on both sides for its actions after the Ukraine invasion. 

Initially, the government faced criticism both domestically and abroad for putting in place the sanctions, which some said amounted to an erosion of the long-standing principle of neutrality. 

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

When the announcement was made, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis acknowledged that while the step was “unique” Switzerland was not abandoning its “untouchable” commitment to neutrality, countering that “playing into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral.”

More recently, the government has come under fire for blocking arms deliveries to Ukraine made by other countries. 

Several European nations have been blocked from delivering arms to the front lines of the conflict, for instance where they contain ammunition which is manufactured in Switzerland

This is due to Switzerland’s commitment to neutrality. While political alliances can be made – which includes the imposition of sanctions such as those levied against Russia – providing military assistance is prohibited, even where this is done so indirectly.