Breaking News on the Russo-Ukrainian War – The Washington Post
Nearly 1.3 million people have been evacuated by train since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Oleksandr Kamyshin, chairman of Ukrainian Railways, said on Saturday.
The railway is “quite mobile” and continues to transport thousands of people a day from central, eastern and southern Ukraine to western Ukraine, where people fleeing the fighting can find safer ground or join an exodus to neighboring countries.
“Our goal is for no one to remain at the station at the end of the day. So far we have managed to get these numbers below 1,000 people per day at each of the major stations,” said Kamyshin at a press conference.
Trains unload around 45,000 people a day in Lviv – a city in western Ukraine that has become a transit hub for those fleeing the country – compared to 5,000 people a day before the war. Despite the rush of people rushing to leave, Kamyshin said the railway company was not short of staff.
Train journeys can be stressful. Kamyshin said a train intended to pick up evacuees from Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv, but was blocked when Russian forces shelled the track, resulting in the loss of two carriages. The train was empty at the time, he said.
So far, Russian attacks have caused infrastructure damage costing billions of dollars, Kamyshin said.
“We bombed a number of bridges, bombed tracks, bombed power stations,” he said. “We repair those that are urgent and vital to our evacuation program. During this time, we correct and grade all the others, which we will work on once the war is over.
Kamyshin said the state-owned company was focused on securing passage for evacuees – and providing “at least minimal comfort” to those waiting for the next train at stations across the country.
However, residents of towns seized by Russian forces saw their escape routes, at least by rail, cut off.
After the Russian invasion began, the company ferried people west and humanitarian supplies east in passenger trains. Today, it has increased its capacity to transport humanitarian aid by switching to freight trains. Kamyshin said the railway had transported more than 600 tonnes of humanitarian goods from west to east in Ukraine – but so far only to towns still under Ukrainian government control.
“We don’t go to Russian-controlled towns,” Kamyshin said.
Evacuation routes from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol were suspended on Saturday after local authorities accused Russian forces of shelling the town and surrounding areas despite a temporary ceasefire. Kamyshin said that so far Russia was “not ready” to grant safe passage for evacuees and humanitarian supplies to towns that “are under their temporary control”.