Ukrainian National Railways appealed to the International Red Cross March 3 to demand that invading Russia guarantee the safety of evacuation trains for civilians trapped in cities under siege. Most urgent is the city of Volnovakha in the Russian-occupied Donbass region at the eastern edge of the country.
“The city is a state of humanitarian catastrophe: After several days of bombing by Russian troops, it is blocked by the enemy, delivery of provision, water and medicine is impossible,” said the railway in an urgent appeal.
“Ukrainian National Railways is ready to provide trains for the evacuation of civilians if the Red Cross negotiates safe passage and humanitarian corridor.”
Westbound passenger trains are reserved exclusively for evacuating women, children, the elderly and foreign passport holders, with no fares required, the railway said. Railways in Poland, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria are providing free connections to Ukrainian refuge seekers.
Meanwhile, Polish volunteers and Poland’s national railway are relinking Lviv to Vienna by restoring service to a line through the Carpathian hills abandoned 12 years ago. The line will be able to handle six refugee trains daily, the railway said.
Ukraine’s state-owned rail network encompasses 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles) with transborder connections to the railways of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary—the immediate countries of refuge for Ukrainian women and children and for non-Ukrainian students and others trapped in the country.
The railway reported that 50,000 non-Ukrainians have been evacuated by train since Feb. 22.
Non-Ukrainian volunteers are working with the railway to coordinate evacuations, sometimes in passenger cars reserved for specific foreign nationals. Some 60 non-Ukrainian volunteers are posted at Kyiv Central Railway Station to provide translation services. Stations at Kyiv, Lviv, Uzhorod and Chop are providing foreigners with medical care and food, including vegetarian meals.