Swiss hail handover of Kiev City Hall

Swiss ambassador to Ukraine Christian Schoenenberger (left) was on hand during the transfer of the building to the authorities Keystone

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has, as chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), welcomed the move by Ukrainian opposition protestors to end their more than two-month long occupation of Kiev’s City Hall.

This content was published on February 16, 2014 minutes and agencies

The Swiss ambassador in Kiev also played a key role in helping transfer the building to the control of the authorities.

“The gesture by opposition protesters to end their occupation of the Kiev city administration building is a positive development. I strongly hope this brings Ukraine closer to a resolution of the current deadlock through peaceful and democratic means," Burkhalter said in an OSCE statement on Sunday.

"Following the request from the city administration and opposition protesters, the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE was glad to offer its assistance as a guarantor and impartial witness to the handover of the building," he added.

Demonstrators had seized Kiev City Hall on December 1, 2013, around a week after mass street protests broke out against President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to abandon a long-anticipated political and economic treaty with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia – its former Soviet master.

Under an amnesty arrangement aimed at defusing the crisis, the Ukrainian authorities had offered to release all jailed protestors if its municipal buildings were cleared of activists and some main roads unblocked by Monday.

Swiss help

People began walking out of the building on Sunday morning. The Swiss ambassador in Kiev, Christian Schoenenberger, entered the building soon afterwards in order to help transfer the building to the control of the authorities.

He told the Swiss news agency that the handover had taken place in two stages: first an international group of observers led by Switzerland took over the city hall in a symbolic gesture, then they gave it over to the Kiev authorities.

“The handover is finished,” he said on late Sunday morning. “It passed off peacefully and without any problems.”

In his statement, Burkhalter, also Swiss foreign minister, welcomed the release of the remaining opposition protestors from detention and appealed for all sides “to reach necessary compromises in a broad and inclusive political dialogue”.

He reiterated the OSCE’s readiness to provide further support and expertise to Ukraine.

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