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Putin is so paranoid about being tracked, he travels in a secret grey train that stealthily blends in with other Russian locomotives, says a former elite Russian security officer

Russian President Vladimir Putin travels by an aeroexpress train in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on October 28, 2013.Russian President Vladimir Putin travels by an aeroexpress train in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on October 28, 2013.


  • Vladimir Putin rides in a train because planes can be tracked, said an FSO officer who defected.
  • The train is indistinguishable from other Russian trains “for stealth purposes,” the officer said.
  • His account aligns with previous reports that Putin secretly travels in trains to avoid being tracked.

Russian President Vladimir Putin travels in a special train so he can avoid using planes that can be monitored on flight trackers, said a former federal security officer who worked with the Russian leader’s security detail.

The train is intentionally designed to appear like “an ordinary train,” said Gleb Karakulov, a former captain in the Presidential Communications Directorate of the Federal Guard Service, per the Dossier Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Same as all the other Russian Railways trains — grey with a red stripe,” he said.

Karakulov was for 13 years tasked with encrypting Putin’s communications, and traveled with the Russian leader on more than 180 overseas business trips, he told the Dossier Center. Karakulov fled in October while accompanying Putin on a trip to Kazakhstan, the outlet reported. He is one of the highest-ranking intelligence officers to recently defect from Russia. 

In an interview with Russian journalist Ilia Rozhdestvenskii published on Tuesday, the former FSO officer spoke on a broad range of topics concerning his old boss, including Putin’s health habits, personality, and the special train.

Karakulov said his team started equipping the train for Putin’s operations in 2014 or 2015, per the Dossier Center. 

“Why does the President use it?” Rozhdestvenskii asked him.

“Because it is less conspicuous. Planes show up on certain services,” Karakulov replied. “Whereas a train, how many of these grey trains are there?”

“More importantly, they cannot be tracked on any information resource,” Karakulov continued, the Dossier Center reported. “It’s done for stealth purposes.”

The train only started being used regularly by Putin in August or September of 2021, he added.

Karakulov’s account aligns with a March report from The Washington Post about Mikhail Korotkov, a Russian trainspotter who for years tracked and photographed an armored train used by Putin.

Korotkov described the train as a “ghost train” with a secret timetable and specially screened windows, as well as a car with a domed top that he believed was used to store communications equipment.

—Igor Sushko (@igorsushko) February 15, 2023

Similarly, Karakulov said his team was never given advance notice of when they might be posted to Putin’s train, but had to always be ready for such an assignment.

A report by Russian outlet Proekt also found that several of Putin’s homes are connected to secret railway stations, including Putin’s residence in Valdai.

Karakulov also said his team was tasked with setting up secret communications for Putin on three-deck yachts, helicopters, a bomb shelter in Kazakhstan, and planes, per the Dossier Center.

The Federal Guard Service’s press department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside regular business hours.

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