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UKRAINE

Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 declared insolvent due to Russia sanctions

Nord Stream 2, based in the Swiss canton of Zug, has gone belly-up after Germany halted the gas pipeline following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

A photo shows the logo of German second division Bundesliga football club FC Schalke 04's main sponsor Russian gas company Gazprom at the Veltins-Arena stadium in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany, on February 25, 2022. - German football club Schalke 04 said on February 24, 2022 it would remove Russian gas company Gazprom as its main shirt sponsor following the invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)
Nord Stream parent company Gazprom. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Berlin halted the project, built to bring Russian gas to Europe, as Moscow faced sanctions from the West.

READ MORE: How Europe reacted to Switzerland’s historic sanctions announcement

“Nord Stream became insolvent because of last week’s US sanctions,” Silvia Thalmann-Gut, economics director in the Swiss canton of Zug where the company is based, told public broadcaster SRF.

She said the regional authorities had been informed Tuesday that the company had filed for bankruptcy and its entire workforce of 106 people had been laid off.

The United States and Germany announced last week that they were imposing sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

UPDATE: How Switzerland could be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The targeting of Nord Stream 2 — one of energy-rich Russia’s highest-profile geo-strategic initiatives — did not however prevent Moscow from launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The pipeline’s project company — Nord Stream 2 AG — is based in Zug, and wholly owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom.

A number of other Russian firms have their headquarters in Zug, and Thalmann-Gut acknowledged that more bankruptcies might follow as the massive sanctions heaped on Russia over its invasion begin to bite.

Traditionally neutral Switzerland, which initially hesitated to impose its own sanctions on Russia, announced Monday that it would follow the European Union’s lead and apply all of the same stiff penalties the bloc has imposed so far.

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

The Swiss sanctions “have not yet played a role, so I cannot rule out that other companies will be affected,” Thalmann-Gut said.

Asked if this would affect the wealthy canton’s tax revenues, she said “it will undoubtedly have an impact”.

“Very powerful companies are now affected.”

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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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