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Easter march through Bern addresses war in Ukraine

Peace marchers head towards the centre of Bern on Monday © Keystone/peter Schneider

The traditional Easter march has taken place in the Swiss capital, Bern. This year the “Walk for Peace” focused on issues including the climate and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Up to 1,000 people, waving rainbow-coloured peace flags, gathered by the River Aare on Monday. They walked along the river, within sight of the Ukrainian embassy at Helvetiaplatz, into the city and ended in the square in front of the Munster Cathedral. There, several speakers addressed the crowd.

Almost 40 organisations, mainly from left-wing and church circles, had called for the Easter march in Bern.

Within the peace movement there are different positions on the war in Ukraine. Particularly controversial is the delivery of weapons by the West to the war-torn country.

One could be divided on this question, former Green politician and peace activist Jo Lang said on the sidelines of the rally. But for Switzerland the question is more the “delivery of money”, he said. “Switzerland must stop financing Putin’s war.”

Easter marches since the 1960s

Easter marches have been taking place in Switzerland since the 1960s. For many years protests were held against nuclear armament under the motto “Create peace without weapons”.

In Bern the tradition died out before the end of the Cold War, but it experienced a resurgence in 2003 after the US invasion of Iraq. Since then, several hundred people have taken part in the march from the Aare to the Old Town every year.

The 2022 march in Bern is the first since 2019; the last two were cancelled because of the pandemic. This year’s motto, “Protect the climate, build peace”, was decided before Russia invaded Ukraine. The organisers then decided to place a focus on the war in Eastern Europe.

The connection to the climate issue was also obvious here, the organisers said, pointing out that the dependence on Russian raw materials was becoming noticeable.

“Switzerland plays a central role in the trade of these climate-damaging fossil fuels and must now assume its responsibility,” they said.

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