Because Putin’s nightmare number 2 is the head of the Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin

Oleksandr Kamyshin, 37, the president of the Ukrainian railway network, and the man who – together with Zelensky – the Russian troops would like to eliminate as soon as possible. Here’s why

There a secret weapon behind the Ukrainian resistancea very long and widespread weapon, capable of reaching every goal: they are its trainsits railway network.

And there a man the Russians would like to kill as soon as possiblegoal number 2 after President Zelensky: the head of Ukrainian railways.

Why? Why trains are saving the countryor – wanting to park more cautiously between realism and pessimism – they are putting off sine die its destruction and its surrender. In fact, trains do a lot of things.

They make refugees flee quickly. They bring tons of aid to areas under siege. They carry the weapons that the West brings, the anti-tank missiles and drones that have displaced (in some cases swept) the Russians. They transport troops to the cities of the front and, incredibly, continue to export everything that Ukraine can produce under these conditions of war.

It is therefore easy to understand why one of Putin’s nightmares is Oleksandr Kamyshin, 37, the president of the Ukrainian Railway Network. The correspondent of the Bbc followed it for several days and we would not be surprised, in a few years, to see this story translated into a film. Remember a great war movie without trains? Impossible. Here, even in this war, trains are everything, life and death.

Life: the railways are the largest employer in the country with 231,000 employees spread over 603,470 square kilometers (sometimes we forget that Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia). According to Kamyshin, his personnel have helped move 2.5 million people to safety since the start of the war.

Death: 33 railway employees have been killed since the invasion began. They hit our tracks every day. They hit the stations. Our people risk their lives every moment. It goes under the bombing. Keep saving people.

Kamyshin it moves constantly in order not to be traceablealways protected by bodyguards. He hasn’t seen his wife and two children for three weeks. Meeting him in his office means seeing him bent over a huge map of the country and its tracks, surrounded by collaborators and constantly on the phone: “Thank you for your support. But I also have a request, ”he says to the caller. “Please help us rebuild trade between Ukraine and Poland”. He hangs up and smiles. “He was the Polish Minister of Infrastructure,” he says.

He was an accountant and an entrepreneur, until a month ago he was involved in the reform of the railway sector, now one of the personalities who directs war operations. But this is a common fate, he points out: Everyone in Ukraine was businessmen, farmers and every other profession before the war began. Now everyone in Ukraine is at war. We all started waging war.

He moves constantly to escape the missiles but also to meet both railway and government officials. He reveals the plan without fear, evidently he knows that the Russians know, or maybe he wants to throw them off: We have launched a program to transfer production from east to west. So we can move people, ideas, plans, maybe machinery to launch a new production west.

Naturally Oleksandr Kamyshin repeats Zelensky’s mantra: thanks for the help dear Western friends but it’s not enough, more weapons are needed, a no-fly zone is needed. But he knows that this is not likely. The only thing that can make trains run in spite of everythingwhich usually the pride of dictators is instead the most democratic activity of all, in peace and even more so in war.

The English journalist closes his story in a suburban railway depot, with the prose of the good war correspondents:

Last time I see Mr. Kamyshin around midnight. He is walking along the side of the tracks in the dark until the spotlight of the approaching train briefly illuminates his small group. The train approaches and a stewardess welcomes him on board. I can’t say where he’s headed, but the night ahead will be filled with calls and discussions. There will be a few hours of sleep, perhaps, and constant monitoring of where the Russians have recently attacked. “We will continue to repair the tracks once the fire is over,” he says before leaving. “We will keep the trains running as long as possible. There is no other option for us “.

This article appeared for the first time in the press review of the Corriere, reserved for subscribers. You can read it here.

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