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Ukraine war prompts outpouring of sympathy from Swiss civil society

Major demonstrations against the Russian invasion of Ukraine have taken place in Swiss cities and towns over the past few days. © Keystone/Michael Buholzer

Several thousand people in Switzerland have again protested against Russia’s attack on Ukraine, amid calls to take in refugees fleeing the conflict.

This content was published on March 1, 2022 - 18:18
swissinfo.ch/urs

An estimated 20,000 demonstrators in the city of Zurich, including the mayor, Corine Mauch, accused the Russian government of breaching international law. They expressed their solidarity with the population in Ukraine.

A special service was held in one of Zurich’s main churches, which was illuminated in the colours of Ukraine’s flag.

Peace protests were also staged in the towns of Zug and Chur, according to the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA. They follow a major demonstration in the Swiss capital, Bern, at the weekend.

Aid

Ahead of an expected wave of refugees in western Europe, aid organisations in Switzerland launched appeals to help the victims of the conflict.

A government advisory commission and the non-governmental Swiss Refugee Council both called on the authorities to allow visa-free entry for people fleeing Ukraine.

“The Refugee Council urges the government to grant unbureaucratic protection,” it said in a statement.

On Monday Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said Switzerland would participate in European humanitarian efforts and was considering granting special temporary refugee status to people fleeing Ukraine.

By Wednesday morning, and since the outbreak of the war, some 150 Ukrainians had registered in Swiss asylum centres, authorities confirmed.

The Swiss government has started deliveries of around 25 tonnes of supplies for the Ukrainian population, according to the foreign ministry.

It will transport urgently needed goods, including  tents, sleeping bags, blankets heaters and water canisters as well as medical supplies worth CHF8 million ($8.7 million) to Poland.   

The humanitarian arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, has launched a fundraising campaign for the victims. The money is to be used for aid in Poland in a first phase, but there are plans to extend it to projects in Ukraine at a later stage, according to Swiss SolidarityExternal link.

Russian artists

The military conflict in Ukraine is also affecting cultural events in Switzerland.

The prestigious music festivals in the city of Lucerne and in the mountain resort of Verbier have stopped their cooperation with the world-renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.

The longtime supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sidelined from concert halls across Europe and the United States.

As similar fate appears to hit the Russian-Austrian star soprano Anna Netrebko who had refused to distance herself from Putin and Russia.

Facing demands to cancel her two planned appearances at the Zurich Opera House External linklater this month, the organisers on Tuesday announced that Netrebko preferred not to sing the performances in Zurich.

"This is no the time for me to make music and perform," she is quoted as saying.

Boycotts of Russian sports teams have also been announced by the Swiss Football Association.

Swiss ice-hockey champions, EV Zug, announced it suspended a contract with its main sponsor, Nord Stream - a company whose majority shareholder is Russia's state-owned Gazprom.

Ukraine solidarity

Swiss Solidarity has launched a fundraising campaign to help cope with an expected humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Donations can be paid via postal account 10-15000-6, adding the words “Crisis in Ukraine”.

In a first phase, the money will be used to help refugees in countries neighbouring Ukraine, notably in Poland. Swiss Solidarity works with charities and aid organisations, including Caritas, HEKS/EPER, the Swiss Red Cross, Helvetas, Medair, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Terre des hommes foundation.

If possible and if necessary, aid projects will also be supported in Ukraine.

The money goes exclusively towards humanitarian aid.

Swiss SolidarityExternal link is an independent foundation. It was born from a programme by the French-language public radio and is now the humanitarian arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the parent company of SWI swissinfo.ch.

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