Ukrainian Railways created ‘Rail Force One’ for surprise Biden visit
US President Joe Biden paid a shock surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday, appearing in Kyiv alongside his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support. Like many high-profile visitors before him, Biden took a Ukrainian Railways train to Kyiv.
Biden’s surprise visit came mere days before the one-year mark of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia later this week on February 24. Ukrainian Railway chief Alexander Kamyshin was quick to ‘apologise’ for the drop in the company’s on-time performance to ‘only’ 90 per cent due to need to make way for ‘Rail Force One’. “I will not tell much more about this mission. Just believe me, it was quite a complicated project for us”, Kamyshin said on Twitter, adding that Biden spent 20 hours on the train in total.
Biden is widely known by his nickname ‘Amtrak Joe’, as he used to take the train frequently during his days as US Senator. Earlier this year, he claimed that he had the keys to the train, and that he would often sit with the engineers on the journeys back to home to Delaware. Amtrak at the time declined to commend on the accuracy of Biden’s statement.
Over the past 12 months, a host of politicians, Hollywood celebrities and rocks stars have taken the train to Kyiv to express their support. Ukrainian Railways quickly dubbed these trips their ‘iron diplomacy’.
The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic set things in motion in March. Their example was soon followed by the likes of then-UK prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, but also actress Angelina Jolie and U2 band members Bono and The Edge.