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ZURICH

Gas crisis: Zurich residents urged to keep homes colder this winter

Authorities in the Swiss canton of Zurich have asked residents to heat their homes to 20C rather than the standard 23C this winter, in a bid to save gas.

Homes in the Swiss canton of Zurich look set to be a little colder this winter. Photo by Ksenia Chernaya
Homes in the Swiss canton of Zurich look set to be a little colder this winter. Photo by Ksenia Chernaya

When the weather turns cold this coming winter, many Zurich residents may look back at this year’s heatwave with longing and nostalgia.

That’s because gas shortage is looming, as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In order save electricity, the city’s government will call on households to lower the temperature from the usual 23 degrees to 20. 

“If all households were to implement this, it would make a difference overall,” said Martin Neukom, head of Zurich’s construction sector.

Other cantons are getting ready for the impending gas crisis as well, not ruling out countrywide restrictions on electricity consumption.

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports that cantons could put in place strict gas quotas in order to ensure supply. 

How reliant is Switzerland on Russian gas?

While the reliance on Russian oil is comparatively minimal, Switzerland has a heavier reliance on Russian gas. 

Natural gas provides around an eighth of Switzerland’s total energy supply.

Problematically, Switzerland does not have any capacity to store gas in order to prevent insecurity of supply. This is despite a federally mandated store of a variety of other things, including foodstuffs and medication. 

Ukraine invasion: How reliant is Switzerland on Russia for energy?

Switzerland buys most of its gas through various European distribution centres, although an estimated 47 percent of this is of Russian origin. 

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POLITICS

Swiss president under fire for handshake photo with Russia’s Lavrov

While attending the opening week of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York this week, Switzerland’s president Ignazio Cassis was photographed shaking hands with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Swiss president under fire for handshake photo with Russia's Lavrov

Though Cassis announced beforehand that he would address “President Putin’s recent provocations” and that he would “condemn the nuclear threat”, Russia used the photo for its own propaganda purposes, with Lavrov publishing the picture of the two smiling diplomats in his tweet.

Cassis quickly reacted with his own post, explaining that his meeting with Lavrov was for a good cause.

“I called on Russia to refrain from organizing so-called referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Switzerland is also very concerned about the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. Neutrality and good offices remain our instruments of dialogue”.

However, some in Switzerland and elsewhere have not accepted this response.

While the Foreign Ministry said “it sees no problem” with this photo, Swiss media Blick noted that “no head of state or minister of a Western democracy has allowed himself to be represented with Sergei Lavrov in such a posture”.

“This image would reflect an apparent normality in relations between the two countries, while Switzerland is still one of the countries hostile to Russia”.

It added, however, that Cassis might have had a noble motive in shaking Lavrov’s hand.

“In the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s announcement to mobilise the reserve troops of the Russian army against Ukraine, this somewhat tense grip is more due to the contingencies of diplomacy than to a reconciliation”.

Others were less understanding of Cassis’ action.

“Our President is shaking hands with a war criminal… I can’t believe it”, said Bernhard Guhl, former national adviser to the Center party.

For Thierry Burkart, president of the Liberal party, “it’s unfortunate that this photo exists. But sometimes you just can’t avoid it…”

As for other social media users, one commented that Cassis “looks proud standing next to a genocide instigator… ashamed of my government”.
 

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