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UKRAINE

Reader question: Do Russians now have to leave Switzerland?

As part of sanctions that the Federal Council adopted on Monday, Russian citizens can no longer enter Switzerland and those already in the country must leave. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: Do Russians now have to leave Switzerland?
Russia's Aeroflot airlines are no longer allowed to land in Switzerland. Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP

Russian citizens present in Switzerland will have to leave the country when their tourist visa expires. On Monday, the Federal Council suspended a 2009 rule which allowed Russians to obtain short-term visas to visit Switzerland. 

This ruling extends only to Russian tourists and other visitors who need a visa to enter Switzerland; permanent residents with a B or C permit are not included in the sanctions and are thereby permitted to remain in Switzerland. 

Leaving Switzerland, however, is not as simple as it sounds because Russian planes can no longer land on Swiss soil, and vice-versa.

So how are Russians supposed to get home?

“The organisation of the return journey is the responsibility of the persons concerned; Switzerland does not provide any support in this regard”, Roland E. Fluekiger, spokesperson for the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) told The Local.

As the European Union has the same sanctions in place, these tourists cannot simply fly to a EU country and reach Russia from there.

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

“As far as we know, Russia can also be reached indirectly, for example via Istanbul. A return journey may also be possible by land”, Fluekiger said.

SWISS airlines announced a suspension of all Russia-bound flights until the end of March after the announcement was made. 

Prior to that, Swiss had flown from Zurich to Moscow five times per week, from Geneva to Moscow twice a week and from Geneva to St Petersburg once per week. 

The ban applies to commercial and private jets and the only exception to the ban is for humanitarian, medical or diplomatic flights. 

READ MORE: What do Russia flight bans mean for international travel from Switzerland?

By contrast, Ukrainian citizens have been able to come to Switzerland without a visa since 2017; the only requirement  was a biometric passport.

From February 28th, however, that rule has been waved and Ukrainians can now enter with any kind of valid passport. Ukrainians are also entitled to free travel within Switzerland on public transport towards their final destination

Banking problems

But not being able to fly home is not the only problem Russian tourists are facing right now: as their credit and debit cards issued by Russian banks no longer work in Switzerland or anywhere in the EU, they may have no access to money, unless they carry lots of cash.

As a result, Russian nationals in Switzerland are “desperately trying to free themselves from the ever-tightening vice of sanctions. They distance themselves as much as possible from their homeland”, according to a report in Tribune de Genève.

“Many wealthy Russians have multiple passports and have now requested to no longer be registered with the bank as Russian residents, but to be registered at another [EU] domicile”, the manager of one wealth management institution told the newspaper.

Banks, however, remain “very cautious”.

“Each of these residency transfers is reviewed by a compliance committee. People whose names are on the sanctions list have no chance of getting their money back. No bank wants to be censured for violating sanctions”, according to the report.

READ MORE: Swiss supermarkets begin boycott of Russian goods

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TRAVEL NEWS

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain’s Basel to Berlin line

In early May, German transport provider Flixtrain announced it would begin running services from Basel to Berlin (and back) from June. Here’s what you need to know.

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain's Basel to Berlin line

German transport provider Flixtrain has announced it will launch in Switzerland from June 23rd. The low-cost provider is offering 10 franc (10 euro) tickets from Basel to Berlin, among other cheap fares.

The low-cost company, which has been establishing itself Deutsche Bahn’s major competitor Germany over the past few years, runs long distance bus and train services. 

When will the services run?

The lines to and from Basel run from Thursday to Monday, with one connection per day in either direction. 

It will take 8 hours and 45 minutes from Basel Badischer Bahnhof to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. 

A trip with the German ICE will instead take just over 7 hours. 

The new line is part of an expansion of services which is set to include around 70 destinations in Germany. 

OK but will it really cost CHF10?

The price of the ticket grabbed headlines, with Flixtrain saying in its press conference that the almost-nine-hour trip would only cost CHF10 (10 euro). 

Flixtrain spokesperson Sebastian Meyer told Swiss news outlet Watson that tickets would start at CHF10, but more expensive tickets would be available when the CHF10 offerings were sold out. 

“If the cheapest ticket contingent is sold out, the next higher one takes effect. In this way, we can always offer our passengers cheap tickets. Affordable prices are still possible due to the corresponding utilisation of the individual trips.”

In order to get the cheapest possible fare, travellers are advised to book early. 

REVEALED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Tickets between Basel and Berlin can cost as high as CHF150 or 160 euros from Switzerland’s SBB or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn respectively, although booking in advance can bring the price down to as low as CHF30. 

Where will the train to (and from) Berlin stop?

In either direction, the train will stop at: Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Offenburg, Freiburg, Wiesloch, Bad Hersfeld and Weil am Rhein. 

What else is different about Flixtrain?

Other than being bright lime green, Flixtrains allow you to take your bicycle with you, which is not allowed on most ICE long-distance trains in Germany. 

Are there any other destinations within Switzerland? 

As yet, Basel will be the only Swiss destination. The other two new routes are Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin to Weisbaden. 

In addition to the 10 franc (10 euro) ticket from Basel to Berlin, other journeys within Germany will start at 5 francs (5 euros). 

More information is available from Flixtrain at the following link. 

The expanded routes can be seen in the following image. 

A look at Flixtrain’s route network in 2022. Map: Flixtrain

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