Train running despite bombs, power cuts, and Biden

The First Day of World War II: Joe Biden’s Visit to Kiev During the First Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

The location of the Finns made them a popular gateway for Asian travelers. Its flagship airline, Finnair, offered flights from Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai to Helsinki that, by crossing over Russia, were hours shorter than flights to any other European capital. A new terminal was built with $1 billion invested by airport chiefs. There were signs in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, and hot water dispensers for the instant noodle packets favored by Chinese tourists.

Europe was shut down by Russia due to the bans on Russian planes. It would now take 13 hours and as much as 40% more fuel for a flight from Russia to be able to go toe-to-toe with that country’s 3,000 mile expanse.

As the world prepares to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden made a historic, unannounced visit to the capital of the embattled country.

Biden said the additional assistance would include more military equipment such as Howitzers and javelins. He stated that new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week.

Zelensky traveled to Washington in December to meet with Biden in the Oval Office and then speak to the joint session of Congress, making him the first Ukrainian to do so since the war began.

Biden showed Putin the plan before the war started to make it look like it was a result of a Ukrainian provocation. The NATO alliance was so trashed by the former President that he rallied it.

Biden went to dinner with his wife in Washington before he left. He wasn’t seen in public again until he got to Kyiv on Monday.

Biden is travelling with a small group, including a national security adviser, a deputy chief of staff, and a personal aide.

No notice was given to reporters on Sunday that Biden was no longer in Washington. The official White House schedule, released Sunday evening, still listed his departure for Poland at 7 p.m. ET on Monday.

Even Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, paid a surprise visit on Mother’s Day last year to a small city in the far southwestern corner of Ukraine. She met with Zelenska at a former school that was converted into temporary housing for displaced Ukrainians, including 48 children.

Now, with the war nearing its one-year mark on February 24, Biden is hoping to demonstrate to the world his commitment to Ukraine, even as it remains unclear how much longer US and western resolve can last.

Zelensky may be willing to accept parameters in any peace negotiations, but the US has refused to define what a settlement may look like, other than to say it will be up to Zelensky.

The First US-Russia Visit since the Invasion of Ukraine: The Case for a Second Year of War, and the Status of the Ukrainian War

The US has recently begun to see disturbing trends, one of which is that Beijing will provide lethal military aid to Moscow without being caught.

The officials would not give detail on the intelligence the US has seen to suggest a change in China’s stance, but they did say they had given intel to allies and partners at the conference.

Wang will arrive in Moscow this week in the first visit from a Chinese official since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, Wang’s visit will provide an opportunity for China and Russia to continue to develop their strategic partnership and “exchange views” on “international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest” – a catch-all phrase often used to allude to topics including the war in Ukraine.

Around 7 p.m. ET on Saturday night, President Joe Biden was out in Washington on a Valentine’s week date-night, lingering over rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu before returning with his wife to the White House.

The next time he was seen in public was 36 hours later, striding out of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv into a bright winter day, air raid sirens wailing a reminder of both the risks and reason for visiting Ukraine as it nears a second year of war.

A small group of his senior-most aides were the ones who meticulously planned Biden’s trip to the Ukrainian capital a year after Russia attempted to capture it.

It was symbolism that caused Biden to go to an active war zone without US military assets on the ground.

Biden sought to talk with Zelensky in detail about the next phase of the war, which US officials describe as having arrived at a critical juncture.

The U.S. Embassy in Kiev during a Cold War II: A Preliminary Talk with Biden and Zelensky

“This is so much larger than just Ukraine. It’s about freedom of democracy in Europe, it’s about freedom and democracy at large,” he said, his blue-and-yellow tie an overt nod to his Ukrainian hosts.

That was in part due to the fluid nature of the trip itself. The realities of a president heading into a war zone where the US had no control over the air space were hard to take even as the small group of White House officials looped in.

The final decision was made in an Oval Office meeting on Friday evening, when Biden gave the final green light. Once the trip was on, US officials took steps to notify Moscow of their plans, an attempt at “deconfliction” meant to avoid unthinkable disaster while Biden was on the ground.

NSC spokesman John Kirby said in an interview that there were no plans for the president to enter Ukraine on the trip.

But at that point, Biden had already lifted off from Joint Base Andrews hours before, not in the usual plane that is synonymous with Air Force One, but instead in a smaller Air Force C-32.

The flight would stop for fuel at a US base in Germany. As he jetted eastward, Biden’s focus was plotting out his conversations with Zelensky, hoping to use his limited time wisely in discussing the coming months of fighting.

I can see the humanitarian crisis in other places, but I can not see it in Poland, which is something I am very disappointed about. They will not allow me to cross the border to get a look at what is happening in Ukraine.

This time around, with an expanded set of US air assets overhead keeping close watch at the Polish border, he would make the trip. Biden and his small group of advisers, Secret Service, and train crew traveled to the center of the war-torn country on a 10-hour train ride.

It was the culmination of a process that began months earlier, as Biden watched as a parade of his foreign counterparts each made the journey into Ukraine.

World leaders including Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the UK’s Rishi Sunak, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni have all taken the train to Kyiv. In fact, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is the only G7 leader yet to visit the country by train.

In the planning stages for this trip, Biden was presented with a range of options for a visit to Ukraine but decided that only the capital Kyiv made sense as a venue, a person familiar with the matter said.

Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said that this was a risk that Biden wanted to take. Even when it’s very difficult and he directed his team to make it happen, he still has to show up.

After the trip concluded, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, declined to say if Biden had to overrule the military or Secret Service in order to continue with the trip.

“He got a full presentation of a very good and very effective operational security plan. He heard that presentation and he made a determination to leave because he was satisfied with the risk.

Russia’s military blog was aghast at the news. Russian journalist Sergey Mardan described the moment of humiliation to his readers. An account on the Telegram app managed by Russian service members remarked with bitter sarcasm that “we are waiting in the Russian city of Kiev for the president of the Russian Federation, but not for the (President of the) United States.”

“Biden in [Kyiv]. Demonstrative humiliation of Russia,” Russian journalist Sergey Mardan wrote in a snarky response on his Telegram channel. Children might be able to hear tales of miraculous hypersonics. We are involved in a holy war with the entire West.

Russian army veteran and former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Igor Girkin meanwhile suggested that Biden could have visited the frontlines in eastern Ukraine and escaped unharmed.

The grandfather would not be good for anything but simple provocations, and nothing will happen to him if he is brought to Bakhmut.

A number of military websites, including one with hundreds of thousands of followers, have criticized what they consider to be a “soft” approach to the conflict on the battlefield by Putin’s generals.

Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, is known for making belligerent pronouncements in an apparent bid to shore up his nationalist credentials.

Putin will be more focused on the invasion than the debate over Biden’s visit will be.

The Kremlin said Monday that guests from other countries would not be invited to the event, which it describes as a special military operation.

After launching a failed assault on central and eastern Ukraine one year ago, Russian President Putin is expected to launch a renewed offensive in the coming weeks.

The Day After Ukraine: The Voices of Putin, Putin, Zelensky, Perry, Greene, Perry and the Opinions on CNN

Frida Ghitis is a former CNN producer and correspondent. She is a weekly opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Her views are her own, not those of this commentary. There are more opinions on CNN.

Ukraine and Kyiv stand a year later. He said that the Americans stood with you and the world stood with you.

In the early days of the invasion, Ukrainians said they found Russian forces dressed in their dress uniforms expecting a victory parade.

Instead, the war has been a series of surprises. Russia’s army turned out not to be as competent as was 888-269-5556 888-269-5556 888-269-5556 888-269-5556, Putin was not quite the genius many had thought.

Zelensky was much steelier and inspiring than almost any leader in recent memory. NATO was more united, and Europeans more willing to support Ukraine than anyone — including Putin — anticipated.

Biden is old and has a stiff walk. There is no shortage of courage and competence in him.

Who can forget the infamous phone call after which Trump was impeached, when Zelensky implored the US President for help to deter an aggressive Russia? Trump’s response, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” trying to push Ukraine into launching an investigation against Biden, the candidate Trump claimed was weak, even though he feared him as his most effective opponent.

A joyous Zelensky said Biden’s visit “brings us closer to victory,” adding it will “have repercussions on the battlefield in liberating our territories.”

Of course, some GOP members criticized Biden for going to Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called the trip “incredibly insulting,” a sign of an “America Last” policy. And Rep. Scott Perry — at the center of a legal dispute with the Justice Department over his cell phone in the special counsel’s January 6 probe — described as “breathtaking” that Biden would help Ukraine defend its borders and not do the same for America.

Magic day of Kherson liberation by the Russians and the arrival of the Soviet troops in Ukraine: Kamyshin’s train to Mariupol

If any of the line is damaged during the fighting, the Ukrainians jump into action. The trains went back into the city eight days after Kherson was liberated.

Kamyshin says it was a magic day. “We saw the faces of the people seeing the train, crying, waving their hands. Trust me, it was unforgettable. That is one of the days to remember.

All that work has taken place under near constant attack. The Russians shell tracks, stations, bridges, power stations, cranes and everything else. Of the two hundred and fifty people that died, 800 were injured. There is only railwaymen and women. That was the price we paid in this war.

During the first three weeks of the war in southern and central Ukraine, the railway’s main focus was on moving humanitarian aid into the towns and cities being bombed. Passenger trains went west toward the Polish border carrying refugees, then returned to the front filled with supplies.

In Mariupol, a port city on the Black Sea close to the Russian border that was bombarded relentlessly until resistance finally collapsed in May 2022, rail workers managed to get trains in and out several times before the tracks were destroyed. The crews were able to leave by road, but the two trains are stuck there.

Unlocking the World: Travel and Food and Drink Trends in Ukraine’s Large-Scale Railway Network before World War I: The Case of Crimea

Editor’s Note: Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about where to stay, the latest on aviation, food and drink, and other travel developments.

“I’ve always taken the train when traveling around Ukraine,” she says. She likes to use sleeper services. In the morning you can be on the other side of the country, and in the evening it is convenient to board in the evening. The journey to Crimea from the Ukraine was a lot more comfortable by train before the Russian invasion. It took 20 hours but you sat down and went to sleep.

The US president’s high profile journey has shone a spotlight on Ukraine’s vast rail network which, at nearly 15,000 miles, is the 12th largest in the world.

The network is mainly a broad gauge railway, which is different to the standard gauge used in Europe.

This is more than making passenger journeys easier. It’s crucial for freight – and for much of the world, which relies on Ukrainian produce, including grain. In 2022, 28.9 million tons of grain were transported via the railways, most of which was exported. In total, just under 60 million tons of goods were exported from Ukraine, according to Ukrzaliznytsia.

Alexander Kamyshin, the CEO of Ukrzaziznytsia, told CNN Travel that before the war, he had planes, cars, buses and trains. We have trains and cars, but no airplanes. We are a large country. So to get from Kyiv to west, south or east Ukraine, sleeper trains are the best way to do it. In the morning, you must be in the city, but you’re not in the train station until late in the evening. So you don’t waste time.

Some trains were also reconfigured as medical facilities. Last year, around 2,500 people were evacuated for medical treatment. The network transported 336,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

Amtrak’s latest on-time performance figures, looking at June 2022, show that on average, just over 22% of trains ran on time across the US. More than a quarter of trains arriving late in the country have been reversed.

Penalba says that since the start of low-cost airlines in Ukraine, the country had a network of night trains with limited domestic flights.

I am used to short haul European flights, but it is still shocking. It’d be much more convenient if trains in the rest of Europe were as affordable and easy as in Ukraine.”

Penalba left Kyiv with her family on the second day of the 2022 invasion, driving to France, where her husband is from. She returned alone in the summer to take care of personal business and to make sure it was safe to come back.

When the family moved back to Kyiv, in August 2022, they again took the train from Poland, getting a second class, four-berth compartment for her, her husband and their two kids. What is their only stress? The train was not arriving in Poland for three hours. The Ukrainian one was different.

“It’s a really efficient, comfortable way of transportation. And governments should review their relationships to railways. In a big crisis, railways are important.


On the prices of cross-border flights to Europe and Ukraine during the Second World War II: a case study with Koen Berghuis and Penalba

A cross-border train to Poland costs around 50 euros (about $53) for a lie-flat bed in a four-person, second class berth, and Penalba says that domestic routes are even cheaper – around 15-30 euros. “First class would be around 40 euros,” she says.

Another fan of Paliparan is Koen Berghuis, editor-in-chief. Based in Romania, the Dutch national takes around half a dozen long distance or overnight trains per month, and before the war, traveled to Ukraine over 10 times.

Kamyshin says that the trains have only been slightly slower in the past year. “It’s not much slower, but we slowed them down deliberately to make it safer in case of something [happening].”

Of course, politicians don’t travel in third class. Kamyshin won’t reveal details of the service they do get, but he says that “guests of iron diplomacy,” as he calls them, “usually spend more time on the train than in the city.”

“We are delicate and we’ll always treat all of our guests properly, but these things help them understand what we expect from them – like iris flowers or leopard print clothes.”

The staff wore leopard print accessory for another politician, and put a vase of irises in the train for the German president’s visit. Kamyshin won’t say who that was, but Poland and Germany have also donated Leopard-2 tanks, with Germany pledging more on the first anniversary of the invasion.


The Rail Network – a Lifesaver in Romanian Railways, says Michael Berghuis at the Aharonov-Bohm Museum

It was the same as Amsterdam to Lisbon or Athens or New York to Kansas City, he says. Passengers on those types of routes would not usually fly.

It is very important for them to make sure people can visit family and friends, get freight, and still have access to the postal network. Some pensions are delivered with trains.

It is for PR, and they are showing Russia, hey, even in these circumstances we manage to run trains. Even if there’s no electricity, we can use diesel or steam locomotives. But the rail network is not only a vital part of the economy, but also a lifesaver.

There are generally three classes to a sleeper, he says, with each carriage having its own attendant. They’re there to give passengers their bedding, take orders for snacks and tea, and make sure passengers get on and off at the right stations. But they’re also there for security – especially important when you’re sleeping in an open cabin of 50-odd berths.

50-plus, that’s the number of bunkbeds in the third class carriages which double as seats in the daytime.

Berghuis states that the attendants keep an eye out for everyone in their wagon. Not that they really need to. He says that third class carriages are “part of the fun, with people happy to share their food, stories, try and talk – even if it’s with hand gestures.”


Odesa, a beautiful historic city with two railway stations: The case for a new passenger rail system in the country of 2022

The stations are worth a visit, says Berghuis, who loves Odesa for its holiday vibe and two of the most beautiful historic stations in Europe, including Kyiv and Lviv.

In 2022, the country took possession of 65 new passenger rail carriages, bought two new diesel trains, and even found time to refurbish other trains in the network. They repaired and built new freight cars.

They launched six new international rail routes, to destinations in Poland and Moldova, and seven domestic routes. The company also electrified more track than they had done in the past decade.

The company predicts a loss of more than 20 billion hryvnia for the year. The future is what it is looking at. In May 2022, “Children’s Railways” – where kids can learn about locomotives – opened in Kyiv and Rivne. Around 1,300 children are already studying at the two centers.

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