"Iron diplomacy" (Ukrainian: залізна дипломатія, romanized: zalizna dyplomatiia) refers to the practice of transporting world leaders through Ukraine via rail since the start of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. 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. 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.
|A conductor showing the dining car|
|A well-furnished meeting room|
|The first foreign delegation in transit|
|Von der Leyen amongst furnishings|
|Scholz and Draghi in Macron's room|
Since the start of the Russian invasion in 2022, Ukraine's airspace has been closed and its roads have become unreliable due to fighting. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
One of the carriages used in the iron diplomacy program was originally constructed for rich tourists to the Crimean peninsula. Completed in 2014, it was used only a few times before Russia annexed the peninsula early that year. Recently modernized carriages from the Soviet era have also been used for the iron diplomacy program. 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. 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.
|2022.03.15||Mateusz Morawiecki, prime minister
Petr Fiala, prime minister
Janez Janša, prime minister
Jarosław Kaczyński, deputy prime minister
|2022.04.01||Roberta Metsola, parliament president||EU||Kyiv||
|2022.04.08||Ursula von der Leyen, commission president
Josep Borrell, foreign affairs representative
Eduard Heger, prime minister
|2022.04.09||Boris Johnson, prime minister||UK||Kyiv||
|2022.04.24||Antony Blinken, secretary of state
Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
|2022.04.28||António Guterres, secretary-general||UN||Kyiv||
|2022.05.08||Justin Trudeau, prime minister
Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister
Mélanie Joly, foreign affairs minister
|2022.06.16||Emmanuel Macron, president
Olaf Scholz, chancellor
Mario Draghi, prime minister
|2022.06.16||Klaus Iohannis, president||Romania||Kyiv||
|2022.06.29||Joko Widodo, president||Indonesia||Kyiv|
|2022.07.03||Anthony Albanese, prime minister||Australia||Kyiv|