Original article (in Bosnian) was published on 24/04/2023
In the articles about Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Poland, some web portals claimed that he travelled in a golden “presidential train”, while others claimed that it was a “paradise” reserved only for him. However, the train whose photos were published does not belong to Zelensky. It can be used by anyone who pays a defined price.
On April 6, 2023, an article was published on the web portal Sputnik about the train on which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly travelled to Poland. The article is equipped with the following title:
Zelensky’s golden train: Photos of a castle on rails published in Poland
The article refers to the Polish media outlet Fakt and describes the interior of the train. The text states, among other things:
The Polish newspaper “Fakt” published photos of the train on which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is travelling.
The presidential train has everything: several bedrooms, a meeting room, a corridor, a dining room and luxurious bathrooms. Leather armchairs, soft sofas, painted walls, gilded mosaics – it seems that all the fantasies of the head of the Ukrainian state have come true in this castle on rails.
The article concludes that the train on which Zelensky travelled belongs to him since it is stated that it is the “presidential train” and “Zelensky’s golden train”. These allegations were published on April 6 in articles on the following web portals; Cafe, Srbija danas, Novosti, IN4S, Novine (.info) and B92.
The web portal Dnevni Puls additionally emphasized the claim that the train belongs to Zelensky in an article from April 6, comparing the luxury of the train with the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine.
An elite train like this can only be dreamed of by ordinary people, not to mention the fighters who die every day from Russian artillery in the mud and in the cold.
We did not doubt that the Ukrainian leader had a taste for opulence and luxury, but we cannot predict how the fighters on the front line would react when they see what kind of wealth their leader is flaunting. One thing is certain, this means of transport is a real luxurious paradise reserved only for Zelensky.
Some articles feature a Telegram post taken from the Sputnik Serbia channel from April 6, in which photos of the train were published, and some feature only these photos. In the publication itself, there are no claims from which it could be concluded that the train belongs to Zelensky.
Photos of the “castle on rails” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used to travel to Poland
What are the facts?
Volodymyr Zelensky visited Poland on April 5, 2023. In Warsaw, he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Zelensky visited Poland accompanied by his wife, and during the visit, he was presented with the high Polish award “Order of the White Eagle”.
In their articles, the aforementioned media refer to Fakt’s article from April 4, 2023. This article was published before Zelensky’s visit and claims that he will travel to Poland on a luxurious Ukrainian railway train. Web portal Fakt published the same photos of the interior of the train in the article, and the article does not cite sources for the stated claims. The title of this article also mentions “Zelensky’s luxurious train”. However, in the article itself, it is stated that the wagons from the photo are also used by other politicians when visiting Ukraine since the airspace in Ukraine is closed and it is not possible to travel by plane.
Web portal Fakt, therefore, published the information about the train Zelensky will use to arrive in Poland before his trip. There is no official information available about the exact train Zelensky took to arrive in Ukraine. In the video published on the YouTube channel The Sun on April 5, 2023, it can be seen that Zelensky arrived in Poland by train, but based on this and other videos, it is not possible to reliably state which train.
We contacted the office of the Ukrainian president and Railways of Ukraine with an inquiry about how Zelensky arrived in Poland. By the time of writing this analysis, we received a response from the president’s office. They told us that they could not provide the requested information. We have not received a response from the Railways of Ukraine.
In Fakt’s article, it is also stated that the wagon in which Zelensky allegedly arrived in Poland is one of ten similar ones in possession of Ukrainian railways. As the article points out, this company renovated and equipped them several years before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, which was met with numerous criticisms. According to reports, people criticized this company for the excessive luxury in the mentioned wagons.
On April 8, 2023, the Ukrainian fact-checking platform StopFake dealt with allegations that the train Zelensky used to travel to Poland belonged to him. As they point out in their analysis, the wagons in the photos belong to Ukrainian railways and can be used by those who pay the specified amount of money.
Photos of the interior of the train which were published in the domestic media can be found on the website of Ukrainian Railways. It is possible to make a train reservation by calling the phone numbers listed on the page. Photos published in the media in our language show the different “saloon wagons” available for travel.
Photo: Screenshot, Uz.gov.ua
So, the photos featured in the articles stating that it is the “Zelensky’s train” or the “presidential train” come from the website of Ukrainian Railways and show wagons that can be used by anyone who pays the specified amount of money. Contrary to the claims of the web portal Dnevni Puls, it is clear that it is not a “paradise” reserved only for Zelensky. Since the airspace over Ukraine is closed except for military flights, other politicians also use trains to travel to Ukraine.
For example, the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, also travelled by train, and from the available photos it can be concluded that he travelled in one of the wagons, the interior of which can be seen in the photos in the media and on the website of Ukrainian Railways. It is, as can be concluded from the Railways’ website, a room in wagon number 036-7007.
Does Zelensky own a train?
Claims about Zelensky’s accumulated wealth have been present in the media around the world for a long time, and some of them have already been analyzed by foreign fact-checking platforms, including USA Today, PolitiFact, AFP and FactCheck. This narrative is part of pro-Russian propaganda that seeks to discredit Zelensky.
Since the beginning of the invasion, Zelensky has been using the train for travel, according to an interview he gave to Time magazine on December 7, 2022, when this magazine declared him the person of the year. This article partly talks about the train that Zelensky regularly travels on, but photos of the train have not been published due to security reasons. However, it is clearly stated that the interior of the train is modest, without any special luxury.
“Inside, my expectations of a high-tech command centre on wheels, or at least a well-stocked bar, were not met. There was no internet and the amenities were modest”, according to the Time magazine article. The author of the article compares the interior of the train with the first class of the American national passenger corporation Amtrak and states that the train Zelensky is using has less space than Amtrak’s wagons.
Given all the facts, we evaluate the claims suggesting that Zelensky travelled by the “presidential train” or the “Zelensky’s train”, as the manipulation of facts. From such wording, it can be concluded that they belong to the Ukrainian president, but they are commercial means of transport owned by Ukrainian railways.