On the night of Feb. 23, when Kyiv was still rife with rumors and denials about the Russian troops and weaponry amassing along the border, Oleksandr Kamyshin, the 38-year-old chief executive of Ukrzaliznytsia — Ukraine’s national rail system — sent a photograph to the management’s Telegram group chat in an attempt to settle everyone’s nerves. The photo showed him tucking his two sons, 8 and 12, into bed in their apartment in central Kyiv. The head of passenger services, Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, replied with a photo of his toddler taking a bath. The implication of both photos was clear: The leaders, and their families, were staying put.
Kamyshin had been in charge of Ukrzaliznytsia for only six months. Still in his trial period, he hadn’t even been offered a permanent contract. When he was hired, he espoused all the Western-approved jargon of railway reform that had been demanded of Ukraine for years — “higher freight yields,” “vertical integration,” “rolling-stock renewal,” “cargo turnover” and so on. Kamyshin had spent eight years on the management board of System Capital Management, an investment house belonging to Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Ahmetov, which oversaw the iron-ore and coal magnate’s freight trains. He ran international marathons, including the New York City Marathon, collected fine red wines and was a devoted fan of the internet-famous restaurateur Salt Bae, whom he once met in Istanbul.