Free transport and calls: How Swiss companies are helping Ukrainians

Swiss companies and organisations a range of changes to help benefit Ukrainian citizens. Here's how.

Free transport and calls: How Swiss companies are helping Ukrainians
Swiss Federal Railways will offer a free ride to Ukrainian refugees. Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

Several companies and organisations have announced policy changes in order to help people impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Telecommunications companies Salt, Swisscom and Sunrise UPC each announced they are waiving the costs of calls to and from Ukraine on its network.

“Sunrise UPC’s thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and all those affected”, the company said in a press release.

“In view of this situation, Sunrise UPC will waive in a first step the costs for international mobile calls and fix net calls from Switzerland to Ukraine and from Ukraine to Switzerland with immediate effect and until further notice for residential customers. Roaming calls within the Ukraine and calls from the Ukraine to Switzerland will not be charged”.

The other networks have taken similar steps. 

Sunrise and Swisscom also announced it is stopping the distribution of the TV channels of RT (RussiaToday), a state-controlled television network.

READ MORE: How Switzerland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

What about the railways?

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) are offering free long-distance train journeys to Ukrainian refugees.

SBB will allow people who have fled Ukraine to travel from the border to a certain destination in Switzerland or to cross the country by train.

The company said this move is in line with the decision of the Federal Council to imposing sanctions on Russia, and in agreement with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). 

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

The country could take in up to 2,000 Ukrainian refugees, “depending on the evolution of the conflict”, according to SEM.

“Switzerland has the will to show solidarity. An emergency plan is available in the event of major migratory movements”, it added.

Similar announcements have been made by public transport networks in Austria, Germany and Poland, among other countries. 

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Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Allies of Ukraine meeting in Switzerland were due Tuesday to adopt a declaration spelling out the principles and priorities of rebuilding the war-shattered country, estimated to cost at least $750 billion.

Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and businesses have been meeting in the southern Swiss city of Lugano under tight security since Monday, discussing the best path forward for reconstruction, even as Russia’s war continues to rage in Ukraine.

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Speaking on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a long line of government ministers described the massive destruction caused by Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation,” Zelensky said via video message. “It is a common task of the whole democratic world,” he said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the recovery “is already estimated at $750 billion”. “The key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” he said.

“The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it”.

READ MORE: Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

The conference, which had been planned before the invasion, had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on recovery.

Shmyhal laid out the government’s phased reconstruction plan, focused first on the immediate needs of those affected by the war, followed by the financing of thousands of longer-term reconstruction projects aimed at making Ukraine European, green and digital.

Those priorities are expected to be reflected in a final Lugano Declaration setting out the general principles defining a framework for rebuilding Ukraine, which should be adopted when the conference wraps up around midday Tuesday.

As billions of dollars in aid flow into Ukraine, lingering concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean far-reaching reforms will also be seen as a condition for any recovery plan decided.

The former Soviet state has long been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.

In Europe, only Russia and Azerbaijan ranked worse.

The Ukrainians have proposed that allied countries “adopt” specific regions of Ukraine, and lead the recovery there to render it more efficient. Britain has proposed taking on the Kyiv region, while a diplomatic source said France would concentrate on the heavily-hit Chernihiv region.

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In all, around 1,000 people are attending the conference, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who let out an enthusiastic “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine) after insisting on the importance of rebuilding a Ukraine better than before the war.