A few days before the full-scale Russian invasion, international airlines canceled flights to Ukraine and withdrew their planes. And since Feb. 24, due to the fighting and missile threat from Russia, air travel in Ukraine has completely stopped.
Since then, the war-torn country has relied entirely on its land transport system, in particular the railways, to transport IDPs, humanitarian aid, and weapons. Therefore, it was the national carrier Ukrzaliznytsia that was tasked with evacuating almost 4 million people from dangerous areas of the country, including 1 million children and 112,000 pets.
At the same time, Kyiv needed strong support from foreign allies. So then Ukrzaliznytsia also began to transport Western presidents and prime ministers to the Ukrainian capital. Railway charters with foreign delegations were labeled Iron Diplomacy.
The first visit of foreign leaders since the beginning of the all-out war took place on March 15. The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, and the then head of the Slovenian government Janez Janša came to Kyiv.
Since then, Ukrzaliznytsia has organized about 200 journeys with foreign dignitaries, and its passengers have included Antony Blinken, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, as well as successful businessmen and celebrities such as Richard Branson, Angelina Jolie, and the legendary Bono and Edge from U2.
NV asked Dmytro Bezruchko, head of the transport planning department of Ukrzaliznytsia, about how exactly western VIPs travel to Kyiv during wartime.
– Whose visit was the most difficult for Ukrzaliznytsia?
– I would call the first visit