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UKRAINE

‘Cruel’ Swiss government video suggests Ukrainians to leave Switzerland

Swiss authorities have welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms when Russia invaded their country in February. But now the government is suggesting they should return home, at least according to a new video.

'Cruel' Swiss government video suggests Ukrainians to leave Switzerland
Refugees from Ukraine are seen in temporary accomodation in a sports hall in Przemysl, in eastern Poland on February 28, 2022. - Overall, more than half a million people have fled Ukraine since its Soviet-era master Moscow launched a full-scale invasion on February 24, with more than half fleeing into neighbouring EU and NATO member Poland, the United Nations said on February 28, 2022. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP)

The four-minute video encourages refugees to return to their home countries as they have “little chance of obtaining asylum in Switzerland anyway”. To make it more attractive, the Swiss government is offering financial aid of up to 3,000 francs if refugees return to their countries voluntarily rather than being deported.

The animated video, which the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) posted on its YouTube channel, was originally meant for non-European refugees, who constituted the entirety of asylum seekers in Switzerland before Ukrainians started to pour in.

In it, a black man called Fulan Afulani is told by kind Swiss government “advisors” that he would be better off to take the money the government is giving him and go back to his country of origin— the offer which Fulan gratefully accepts.

In the Ukrainian version, the Fulan Afulani is renamed Bohdan Petrenko, but the rest of the message is the same: take the money and go back home.

According to a report in Blick, “indignant” refugees from Ukraine turned to a Switzerland-based Ukrainian lawyer Elina Iakovleva, who pointed out the obvious inconsistency in the video: that a white-skinned Bohdan cannot be believably portrayed, even in an animated form, by a dark-skinned Fulan.

Iakovleva also brought up another inconsistency: unlike other refugees in Switzerland, Ukrainians receive temporary protection status, the so-called S permit, and not political asylum. Also, Ukrainians don’t even need a visa to enter Switzerland, whereas refugees from outside Europe do.

“In any case, how can SEM suggest that women and children should return to a country where bombs are falling and rape is commonplace? The message in the video is cynical and cruel,” she added.

The video, in English, is here.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s special ‘S permit’ visa program: What Ukrainians need to know

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UKRAINE

LATEST: Moscow says Switzerland can’t represent Kyiv in Russia

Ukraine had asked Switzerland to represent it diplomatically in Russia, but the Kremlin claims the Swiss have 'lost their neutral status'.

LATEST: Moscow says Switzerland can't represent Kyiv in Russia

Russia said on Thursday that Switzerland has lost its neutral status and cannot represent Ukraine diplomatically in Russia, blaming Bern’s decision to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Switzerland had stated earlier that Ukraine asked Bern to represent it in Russia.

The Swiss foreign ministry said that Ukraine had requested that Switzerland “assume a protecting power mandate” for Kyiv in Russia, confirming a story in the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper.

“The corresponding negotiations have been completed,” a ministry spokeswoman told AFP in an email on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold

But the spokeswoman had stressed that “in order for the protecting power mandate to come into force, Russia still has to give its consent” – which the Kremlin didn’t.

Switzerland has lost neutral status’

“Unfortunately, Switzerland has lost the status of a neutral state and cannot act either as a mediator or as a representative of interests,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev told reporters.

He confirmed that Bern had asked Russia if it would agree to Switzerland representing the interests of Ukraine in Russia and vice versa.

Nechayev stressed that Switzerland had been supporting the Kyiv government and slapped sanctions on Russia.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which Swiss cities will be most impacted by a gas shortage this winter?

“It is completely incomprehensible how one can offer mediation, representation or other goodwill services with such behaviour,” he added.

Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, Switzerland — renowned for its neutrality — has said it stood ready to provide diplomatic assistance and to serve as a go-between.

Moscow has been angered by Bern’s decision to follow the neighbouring European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia.

Switzerland has a long tradition of acting as a protecting power, first playing the role during the Franco Prussian War in 1870-71.The wealthy Alpine country, which has held such mandates hundreds of times
since then, currently represents the diplomatic interests of a range of countries including Russian interests in Georgia and vice versa.

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