Airbnb to house Ukrainian refugees

Rental platform will offer short-term housing to up to 100,000 people leaving Ukraine

Airbnb announced on Monday that it will offer “free, short-term housing” for refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine. The platform’s efforts will focus on Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania, and could extend to providing longer-term accommodation.

Airbnb announced the move in a blog post, stating that it would be funded by Airbnb itself, donors to the company’s refugee fund, and hosts offering their properties up for free through Airbnb.org, a nonprofit founded by the short-stay firm.

The move is not unprecedented for Airbnb, which has provided accommodation for Afghan, Syrian, and Venezuelan refugees over the past five years, to people affected by natural disasters, and to healthcare workers during the initial weeks and months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi claimed on Monday that some 500,000 refugees have left Ukraine since Russia launched a military offensive last week. Most of those fleeing have been women and children, on account of Ukrainian authorities ordering military-aged men to stay and fight.

Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova have taken most of the refugees, Grandi said. Reports also suggest that some have crossed into Belarus, where the government is supporting Russia’s Ukrainian operation.

Ukrainian and Russian officials met in Gomel, Belarus on Monday for tentative peace talks. Following negotiations, delegations from each side returned to their capitals, with Kremlin negotiator Vladimir Medinsky saying they had agreed to a second round of discussions later this week.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, fighting continues. Russian forces have engaged Ukrainian troops and militias in the cities of Kharkov and Mariupol, as well as on the outskirts of Kiev. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the aim of the operation is to neutralize and “de-Nazify” Ukraine, while Moscow’s foreign policy has for decades aimed to block Ukraine’s accession to the NATO alliance.

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