• 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.