Switzerland shows support for Ukraine as protesters take to the streets
Switzerland has shown its full support for the people of Ukraine, as thousands took to the streets of Zurich in protest on Monday. After the Swiss government officially announced that it was joining sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Swiss cantons and companies have also joined in giving aid to Kyiv.
Protestors in Zurich march in emotional vigil in support of Ukraine
On Monday, thousands of people held a vigil in the centre of Zurich to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to call for peace. They gathered near the Gross and Fraumünster, waving Ukrainian flags, setting up candlelight vigils and singing traditional Ukrainian songs.
The march was organised by the group StandUp4Democracy and was officially sanctioned and attended by the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch. The march joins a number of protests that have taken place across the world, such as in the Netherlands and Germany, to condemn the actions of the Russian government.
Swiss cantons and companies give support and aid to Ukraine
Alongside the vigils, Swiss cantons have begun their own efforts to support the people of Ukraine. Officials in St. Gallen are already collecting blankets, mattresses and other humanitarian aid to be sent to the country and its border regions.
"Our goal is to be on-site with relief supplies as quickly as possible," said Jörg Köhler, Head of the Office for Military and Civil Defence in the Canton of St. Gallen. "The experience of the canton is that if you wait for the federal government, you sometimes wait a long time," which is why he has been ordered by the cantonal authorities to take matters into his own hands.
Swiss aid effort organised through Facebook and Whatsapp
In Basel, volunteers have also been collecting relief supplies that are to be sent to the Polish-Ukrainian border - the place where most Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to. "We expect to be at the border in 15 to 20 hours,” said Patrick, one of the organisers, who declined to give his surname. “People are dying practically on our doorstep. We have to help and can't wait," he explained.
The efforts in Basel were organised entirely on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Patrick said that the aid was vital, as larger aid organisations would need time to set up their operations. Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen has confirmed that many other cantons will begin aid missions to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
International companies in Switzerland have also started to get involved, with Sunrise UPC, a local telephone provider, waiving international mobile and landline fees from Switzerland to Ukraine and removing Russia Today (RT) from its line-up of TV channels. Swiss Federal Railways, the main public transport provider, said it will offer free long-distance rail journeys to Ukrainian refugees between the border and a destination in Switzerland or the rest of Europe.
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