A trainspotter spent years tracking Putin’s secret train, which he reportedly uses to get around.
Mikhail Korotkov told The Washington Post that in 2021, he felt like he was being watched.
Fearing for his safety, Korotkov fled the country in September and now lives in Sri Lanka.
A trainspotter who became obsessed with tracking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “ghost train” now lives in exile, The Washington Post reported.
Mikhail Korotkov, 31, spent years tracking, photographing, and blogging about Putin’s armored train, which he reportedly uses to travel inconspicuously around the country.
The train travels between heavily-guarded stations that have been built in locations that Putin visits often, including Novo Ogaryovo, Sochi, and Valdai, the independent Russian media outlet Proekt reported last month.
In an interview with The Post, Korotkov said he often posted photos of the train and wrote about its features on his blog “Railway Life,” which he started in 2011.
“I was so deep in my hobby. I tried to get really rare pictures,” Korotkov, who is from a town outside of Moscow, told The Post. “And for me, the challenge was so huge that I was not thinking about consequences.”
Korotkov said tracking the train was difficult because it had no timetable, its windows were blacked-out, and it had no identifying locomotive numbers. Other trainspotters who knew Korotkov had taken a special interest in Putin’s private coach would often tip him off when they saw it, he said.
Korotkov was also the first train enthusiast to post an image of the train in 2018. But the 31-year-old was also careful to not be too public about his hobby, telling the Post that he did not post all the pictures of Putin’s train online.
“I was trying not to attract attention to the fact that I was so very interested in the topic,” he said.
In May 2021, Korotkov said he started seeing “creepy” conversations underneath his YouTube page that included word-for-word transcripts of private phone conversations he had about trainspotting with his closest friend.
“I thought about my personal safety, and from that moment I realized that everything I had published on the internet could be used against me,” he told The Post, saying that he assumed he was being watched by Russia’s Federal Security Service or FSB.
“I told my parents that my life was in danger,” he added.
When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began less than a year later, Korotkov said he became even more uneasy, fearing that his trainspotting posts could be used to imprison him on sabotage or terrorism charges. He shut down the blog one month after the war started.
In September last year, after Putin announced a military mobilization, Korotkov said decided to flee Russia. He traveled by car to Khazakstan and then flew to India. He now lives in Sri Lanka, but told The Post that he is “ready to move around the world.”
“While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still going on, my life is up in the air,” he said.
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