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‘My life was in danger’: Rail enthusiast flees Russia after photographing Putin’s armoured train

Trainspotter Mikhail Korotkov’s blog was his passion – but shutting up shop and leaving home felt like the only option after pictures he posted of his favourite target attracted some unwanted attention, finds Robyn Dixon

Saturday 18 March 2023 22:24 GMT
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A selection of train photos taken by Mikhail Korotkov
A selection of train photos taken by Mikhail Korotkov (Mikhail Korotkov)

For Mikhail Korotkov, a lifelong trainspotter, one unusual train on Russia’s railways became an obsession – like stalking a rare, shy beast.

Korotkov, 31, spent years tracking and photographing president Vladimir Putin’s hush-hush deluxe armored train. He was the first enthusiast to post an image of the train – sleek sliver with red-and-grey detailing, often pulled by multiple boxy locomotives – online in 2018. “Mere mortals do not travel on such a train,” Korotkov wrote.

Finding and photographing the train was both terrifying and exhilarating. To Korotkov, it was like a creepy “ghost train”, with a secret timetable, no identifying locomotive numbers and its windows always screened. At least, one of the rail cars has an unusual dome on top – believed to house special communications equipment.

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