Iron diplomacy

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The first foreign delegation to Kyiv during the 2022 invasion meeting with Ukrainian leaders in front of the situation room after arriving by rail[a]
US secretary of state Antony Blinken on the train to Kyiv

"Iron diplomacy" (Ukrainian: залізна дипломатія, romanizedzalizna dyplomatiia) refers to the practice of transporting world leaders through Ukraine via rail since the start of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] The expression was coined by Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of Ukrainian Railways, because many diplomats were being shuttled by train to and from Kyiv, the capital city, as the use of Ukrainian airspace was impractical due to the invasion.[10][11][9] In addition, the first foreign leaders to visit Kyiv had decided to avoid travelling from Poland to Ukraine via a Polish military jet, in case Russia interpreted it as an escalating move.[12]

Rail system[edit]

External media
Images
image icon A conductor showing the dining car[13]
image icon A well-furnished meeting room[13]
image icon The first foreign delegation in transit[13]
image icon Von der Leyen amongst furnishings[15]
Video
video icon Scholz and Draghi in Macron's room[14]

Since the start of the Russian invasion in 2022, Ukraine's airspace has been closed and its roads have become unreliable due to fighting.[15] As a result, the country has been forced to rely heavily on its rail system for transport, including for humanitarian aid, refugees, weapons, and food for export.[15][10] As the rail system is crucial in Ukraine's resistance to the invasion, Ukrainian Railways has continued to run despite repeated attacks against the system, such as the attack on Kramatorsk station.[10] Security has also increased, and Oleksandr Kamyshin, who runs Ukrainian Railways, is now armed and accompanied by two bodyguards, keeps his schedule and location secret, and avoids physical contact with his family.[10][b]

Diplomats and other world leaders who wish to travel through Ukraine are faced with a similar lack of options, so they regularly take part in Kamyshin's iron diplomacy program.[15] Ukraine also provides a security detail for the visiting leaders, and Kamyshin also keeps their travel details secret, but sometimes information ends up being publicized before the delegation has left Ukraine, which increases the risk of an attack.[15][16]

Carriages[edit]

One of the carriages used in the iron diplomacy program was originally constructed for rich tourists to the Crimean peninsula.[15][13] Completed in 2014, it was used only a few times before Russia annexed the peninsula early that year.[13] Recently modernized carriages from the Soviet era have also been used for the iron diplomacy program.[15] Although much of the furniture is of high quality to allow visiting leaders to travel comfortably, and meeting rooms are generally furnished with nice upholstery, not all the carriages have been given equal treatment.[15] Notably, when French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi were travelling together to Kyiv, they were all smiling when discussing the stark differences between the accommodations they were provided.[14]

Notable visits[edit]

Date Travellers Representing To Notes Rf.
2022-03-15 Mateusz Morawiecki, prime minister
Petr Fiala, prime minister
Janez Janša, prime minister
Jarosław Kaczyński, deputy prime minister
 Poland
 Czechia
 Slovenia
 Poland
Kyiv
  • First visit by foreign leaders during the invasion
[12]
[17]
[13]
2022-04-01 Roberta Metsola, parliament president  EU Kyiv
  • First visit by a top EU official during the invasion
  • Trip details withheld for security reasons
  • Kamyshin asserted weeks later that "[a]ll Western leaders ... arrived by train"
  • Metsola addressed the Verkhovna Rada in person
[9]
[18]
[19]
[20]
2022-04-08 Ursula von der Leyen, commission president
Josep Borrell, foreign affairs representative
Eduard Heger, prime minister
 EU
 EU
 Slovakia
Kyiv
[15]
[21]
[22]
[23]
[24]
2022-04-09 Boris Johnson, prime minister  UK Kyiv
[13]
[25]
2022-04-09 Karl Nehammer, chancellor  Austria Kyiv
[26]
2022-04-13 Alar Karis, president
Egils Levits, president
Gitanas Nausėda, president
Andrzej Duda, president
 Estonia
 Latvia
 Lithuania
 Poland
Kyiv
[27]
2022-04-24 Antony Blinken, secretary of state
Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
 US Kyiv
  • Visit occurred hours before Krasne railway station was attacked, amongst others
  • Unclear if the secretaries were still in transit at the time of the attacks
[9]
[28]
2022-04-28 António Guterres, secretary-general  UN Kyiv
  • Visit occurred two days after Guterres held talks with Putin in Moscow
  • Central Kyiv was attacked while Guterres was still in the city
  • Two rockets exploded in the Shevchenkivskyi District, shocking the UN team
[29]
[30]
[31]
2022-05-08 Justin Trudeau, prime minister
Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister
Mélanie Joly, foreign affairs minister[c]
 Canada Kyiv
[6]
[32]
2022-05-22 Andrzej Duda, president  Poland Kyiv
  • Duda addressed the Rada, becoming the first foreign head of state to address the parliament in-person since the Russian invasion
[33]
2022-05-26 Sanna Marin, prime minister  Finland Kyiv
[34]
2022-06-16 Emmanuel Macron, president
Olaf Scholz, chancellor
Mario Draghi, prime minister
 France
 Germany
 Italy
Kyiv
[35]
[36]
[14]
2022-06-16 Klaus Iohannis, president  Romania Kyiv
  • Iohannis joined Macron, Scholz, and Draghi in Kyiv but had travelled separately
  • He also announced his support for granting EU candidate status to Ukraine
[37]
[36]
2022-06-29 Joko Widodo, president  Indonesia Kyiv
  • First visit by the leader of an Asian country during the invasion
  • Visit occurred shortly after Widodo attended the G7 summit in Bavaria
  • Indonesia is scheduled to host the next G20 summit in Bali
[38]
2022-07-03 Anthony Albanese, prime minister  Australia Kyiv
[39]
[40]
[16]
[41]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ From left to right: Polish deputy prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński, Czech prime minister Petr Fiala, Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
  2. ^ Kamyshin also carries his son's stuffed owl with him.[10]
  3. ^ Also part of the Canadian delegation were Jody Thomas, national security advisor; Katie Telford, chief of staff; and Brian Clow, deputy chief of staff.[32]

References[edit]

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