Transporting US President Joe Biden on a highly-covert, 10-hour-each-way train ride across Ukraine was a massive undertaking requiring significant preparation and the highest levels of secrecy. It also signaled an important moment for the country and its railway system, seen as a source of stability during unstable times, Ukrainian Railways CEO Alexander Kamyshin told CNN.
“Russians promised to take Kyiv. And in 362 day of the war, President Biden appears in Kyiv and walks around with my President Zelensky. So it’s kind of really historical moments. We were happy and privileged and honored to be the official carrier of the President Biden, so we called our train Rail Force One,” Kamyshin told Kaitlan Collins during an appearance on “CNN This Morning” Wednesday.
Kamyshin said that his work – which has so far received around 300 official delegations from across the globe traveling on the railway since the start of the war nearly one year ago — is important to his country and its diplomacy.
“With worldwide leaders, presidents, prime ministers, members of Parliament, of the Congress, it’s a really responsible mission for us. We call this mission ‘Iron Diplomacy.’ And that’s how we help our president to make his diplomatic mission happen. And every single guest of Iron Diplomacy program is an honored guest for us. We do our best to bring them in and out safely,” he said.
But it also plays a broader role in the country’s morale amid Russia’s brutal invasion.
“For us, on-time performance is a really important focus. During the war, people should rely on something. Railways became a reliable transportation for our people,” he said.
Kamyshin apologized on Twitter after Biden’s train ride that “only 90%” of Ukraine’s trains were on time around the US visit.
“We had to delete some trains to make the Rail Force One run smoothly and safely. And I had to apologize because we usually strive to get better performance. But two days ago, it was not that good,” he told Collins.
Kamyshin told Collins he was “not nervous, but focused and determined until the moment he (Biden) left the borders of Ukraine.”
Biden spent 24 hours in Ukraine, 20 of which were aboard Ukraine’s rail system.
“Trust me, it was a complicated mission,” he said, and one that involved close coordination with the US Embassy in Ukraine, the US government, and Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure.