Russia invades Ukraine and Zelensky addresses Congress
The chairman of Ukrainian Railways said the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers, who traveled by train for a meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, took a “strong step” to show their support for his war-torn country, albeit a “naïve”.
“It was really important to us, even if it was naive,” Oleksandr Kamyshin told CNN on Wednesday.
Kamyshin, the top leader of the national rail system, called the move naïve because the EU leaders’ delegation announced its travel plans while still en route to the capital.
kyiv was terrorized by a campaign of Russian airstrikes that have hit residential areas in recent days, including several apartment buildings – prompting a 35-hour curfew that began on Tuesday evening.
The Ukrainian railway system is not immune to these strikes. But on Tuesday morning, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that he was heading, together with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, to kyiv.
“I was keeping their secret, but when I saw something being posted online, it surprised me. I didn’t understand that,” Kamyshin told CNN.
Along the way, Morawiecki wrote in a Facebook post, “It’s our job to be where history is made. Because it’s not about us, it’s about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world without tyranny.”
Fiala also tweeted that “the purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the whole European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.
Since the start of the war, security concerns have been at the heart of the 37-year-old railway executive’s concerns.
Kamyshin and his principal deputies have spent the past three weeks criss-crossing the country, managing the railway’s 321,000 employees and around 1,450 moving stations. He thinks railroad management is a target for Russian bombs, so staying in near-constant motion is a matter of personal safety.
“Even to my children, I don’t say to them, ‘Hey, don’t reveal your position’, because everyone should understand that it’s war. I can’t give instructions to prime ministers,” a- he declared.
According to Kamyshin, it was the prime ministers’ idea to travel to kyiv by train, believing it to be the safest mode of transport.
He agreed, although a train station in Zaporizhzhia was hit by a Russian bomb on Wednesday morning, shortly after their visit, which left a crater-sized hole in the train tracks and damaged the station.
“Any smart person would choose the train over a car these days,” he said. “Even with shelling everywhere, stations and trains are the safest places in the country right now.”
Kamyshin said the delegation traveled on a special train with four of the railway’s newest sleeping cars. The only other passengers were part of the delegation or security.
“It was a regular, normal train, with normal carriages,” he said. “So [the delegation’s route] was no more special than the others. … It was the same route that normal passengers also take.”
The trip took about eight or nine hours, he said. The leaders spent a few hours with Zelensky and his team before taking an overnight train back to Poland.
“For me, it’s the best assessment of railways if foreign prime ministers choose railways instead of a car or a helicopter, or any other option,” he said.