Ukrainian President to visit Switzerland in first trip abroad since invasion
Despite being two months away, preparations are already being made to welcome embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Lugano, Canton Ticino. If he is able to attend, it will be the first time the leader has left Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.
Largest security operation in Switzerland since World War Two
In a tweet on April 30, Zelenskyy confirmed that he had spoken to Swiss President Ignazio Cassis about attending the conference, which is designed to drum up support for a reconstruction fund to rebuild Ukraine after the war. The Tages-Anzeiger reported that authorities in Bern and Bellinzona are currently preparing for the most intense security presence seen in Switzerland since World War Two.
Often donning military clothing in his speeches, Zelenskyy has said in the past that he is “enemy number one” for the Russians. At the conference, a large presence of Swiss police is planned to keep the leader safe, and Ticino has already applied for military assistance from the government. Swiss cantons across the nation have also pledged their own police forces to help secure the meeting.
The event, set to be held on July 4 and 5, will be the first time the Ukrainian leader has left his country since the Russian invasion started. Zelenskyy and Cassis had already planned to meet in Lugano, the birthplace of the Swiss president, before the start of the war, but now the invasion has given the meeting a new purpose and significance.
World leaders to descend on Ticino for Zelenskyy's visit
Instead of being a conference on reforming Ukraine, as was originally planned, the event will now be a donor conference to plan the reconstruction of the country after the war. Already, British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has announced that he will also be attending, with President Macron, Chancellor Scholz, Prime Minister Draghi and possibly US President Joe Biden expected to follow suit.
"It is an honour for Lugano, for the canton of Ticino and for Switzerland, but also a great challenge to host such an international conference," said Ticino security director Norman Gobbi. He confirmed that the conference will be the largest security event in Ticino since the opening of the Gotthard Tunnel in 2016.