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Swiss media express dismay over Crimea vote

People wave Crimean flags at Lenin Square in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine Keystone

A day after residents of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula overwhelmingly approved a referendum that sought to unite the Black Sea region with Russia, Swiss newspapers called the vote a “farce”, warning it would likely cause trouble.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger criticised the Russian authorities for trying to manipulate public opinion.

“The Kremlin has taken aim at the last forms of free communication, such as social networks and small alternative media,” yet the paper pointed out that nevertheless, thousands of people had marched through Moscow on Saturday chanting “no war” and “Maidan” – referring to Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine.

The newspaper said that this support for the Ukrainians was, however, not a reason for hope.

“The worst thing is that Putin’s propaganda hasn’t even been necessary for most of the Russian population,” it continued, saying that “a majority considered his intervention in Crimea as lawful, as a defence against an advance of the West, as protection against chaos and anarchy”. The editorial predicted that this might bring Russian president Vladimir Putin – whose popularity has been flagging – a triumphant comeback.

On its front page, tabloid newspaper Blick used bold red font to list five sanctions that the EU and US could use to punish Russia. It also voiced concern over the safety of Swiss people planning to visit Crimea; its coverage featured an interview with a Swiss man who runs two coffee shops there, plus a travel advisory from the foreign affairs ministry.

‘A travesty’

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) had more than two pages of coverage, which included several photos showing the Russian military presence as well as a Russian flag that had been hung on the local parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea,  before the vote.

Following the referendum – where 95% of voters reportedly said yes to being a part of Russia – the NZZ reported a mix of high expectations of Russia as well as worries about the future.

“Economically, being annexed to Russia would be rather unfavourable for Crimea. In terms of infrastructure, the peninsula is geared towards Ukraine – and investors can hardly make their way into an instable area.”

Geneva’s Le Temps described the referendum as a “a farce, a trap and a tragedy”.

Taking a long-term view, the newspaper said that “this travesty of a vote is worrying because of what it announces for the rest of Ukraine rather than just the result for Crimea.”

It went on to say that there would be no easy solutions for the region.

(with input from Scott Capper)

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR