Individual actions to support Ukraine and its citizens

Individual actions to support Ukraine and its citizens
Photo from Alexander De Croo (Twitter).

From boycotting Russian businesses and reducing gas usage to donating to supporting local charities and speaking out against the invasion, here are ways you can help Ukraine and its citizens during the ongoing conflict.

On 24 February, Russia launched an all-out offensive against Ukraine, including the shelling of civilian areas, resulting in millions of people being displaced and destroying many of the country's cities.

Russia's brutal attack has sparked international condemnation and galvanised displays of solidarity around the world. But on an individual level, it can be difficult to know how to carry out meaningful action for war-torn Ukraine. Below is a summary of ways that you can oppose Russia's actions and help Ukrainians.

Services, donations and shelter

Citizens in Belgium have been helping Ukrainians in a number of ways, including by donating food and clothing and handing these out to those queueing at the registration centre in Brussels, among other locations.

One refugee who fled Kyiv and has been queueing here for days welcomed this type of support and added that certain professionals can also help by offering their services for free.  "Many refugees are in need of judicial and psychological help when arriving in Belgium," he told The Brussels Times. 

“People here have terrible stories, they lost their homes and families, and now they are again encountering difficulties, such as sleeping on streets. People are broken and don’t know how to deal with the situation.” 

Donating money to charity and aid organisations working on the ground in Ukraine is another way of helping, and is more efficient than sending goods, according to Unicef. Before sending money, take time to cross-check the organisation with lists from watchdog groups, such as CharityWatch, and CharityNavigator, to ensure they are rated as safe.

Via rental platform Airbnb, people can help in two ways. Firstly, by booking empty rentals in Ukraine's hardest-hit areas, which is an easy way to quickly send money directly to those in need. The company already announced it would waive the guest and host fees on bookings so the rental fees go directly to the Ukrainian hosts.

People with spare rooms or second homes who want to host a refugee or a family that fled the war can also place offers for emergency stays on the platform.

Thousands of people living in Belgium have also voluntarily registered on the #PlekVrij platform to host refugees waiting for a permanent place of residence in their homes. Participating communes can be contacted and will map all shelters on their websites.

Tweet translation (mayor of Genk): "The first people fleeing the war in Ukraine have arrived in Genk. It's fantastic what the many volunteers have achieved here in such a short time. I really felt the warmth tonight. Together we will get there."

Another initiative to send money directly to people in Ukraine is by buying Ukrainian artworks online and agreeing to receive the works at a later point. This can be done directly or by contacting sellers who are based in the country on Etsy or other e-commerce websites.

Speaking out and silencing disinformation

Protests against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its war tactics are being organised across the world, including in Belgium. Although the government has already publically spoken out against the conflict, protests can be a means for citizens to demand governments to do more to support and help refugees.

Aside from provoking political change, the images of people across the world protesting against Russia's invasion can be a source of hope and encouragement, as this is a large-scale way of showing solidarity.

As well as the military attack, Russia is waging a disinformation campaign using state-owned media platforms to spread propaganda, including that Ukraine is bombing its own cities. To counter this, it is important to get news from verified information sources, preferably on the ground.

Various Ukrainian media are publishing coverage in English, including The Kyiv Independent, and Ukrainska Pravda. Follow official social media accounts of government officials, such as President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

When spreading the word about the war in Ukraine on social media, linking directly to reliable sources also helps stifle the spread of disinformation.

Russian boycott

Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas to the EU and this dependence allows them to put leverage on the Member States. But aside from what can be done at national and EU levels to reduce this reliance, ordinary citizens can also help to cut down on Russian imports.

“Russia is using its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon. This is clear to everyone in the world," International Energy Agency (IEA) director Fatih Birol said.

As noted in the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s 10-point plan to reduce imports by about a third before next winter, 10 billion cubic metres of gas could be saved within a year if consumers temporarily turn down the temperature on thermostats by 1°C.

From IKEA to Apple and H&M, various businesses have already announced action against the country by pausing or halting their operations in the country.

But "most of the corporate world remains silent," according to The Good Lobby, which set up the Ukraine Corporate Index, tracking corporations’ stance regarding their activities in Russia. People are called on to openly boycott businesses that have not yet spoken out against Russia.

Note: This article previously included Ferrero and Bacardi among those companies that hadn't spoken out against Russia. Both have now either temporarily paused all non-essential activities or paused exports to the country.

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