Just a quick query, but how easy, feasible is it to cross from Ukraine into Russia and back, being a non CIS (FSU) resident? I once dated a girl in Sumy who really wanted to visit St.Pete one day (she wasn't asking me to take her. I'd actually asked where she'd visit if she could - this was her answer). There's also the possibility I may be in the Sumy area in the future, and I may want to go to Volgograd to visit someone. Looking at the distances, it looks like it might be easier to go straight from Sumy, than back to Borispol, then on to Rostov airport.
Be ready with some bribe money. Last year, my gf went to Moscow on a train. She said one lady was booted out on the way in. She did not know what for. On the way back, she had to bribe the guards to let her back into Ukraine, the equivalent of around $15 USD. This is a Ukrainian citizen.
I have no experience with land frontier crossings, but I have made numerous visits to Russia and am a student of Russian travel questions.
Probably you already know that you must get a visa in order to enter the Russian Federation, and that you must register your visa if you spend three or more business days in any Russian city. Ukrainian citizens don't need either a visa or registration if visiting Russia for 90 days or less.
I presume you are thinking about the train -- the trips are slow (almost always overnight, and often more than 24 hours), but not very expensive.
I don't recommend crossing into Russia by road, motorists have reported 12+ hour waits at border crossings! And while this wouldn't apply to your case, international train travellers need to be aware whether the train route goes through a third country, where a transit visa will be required (learned this the hard way).
Doing it by rail (if my web results are accurate):
Leave Sumy 4:50 PM on the N 606 (goes to Luhansk)
Arrive 7:40 AM (next day) to Debaltseve (Дебальцеве), a large rail station at a very small town.
Kill about 14 hours.
Leave from Debaltseve 10:22 PM on the N 031 (goes to Baku)
Arrive 12:35 PM (next day) to Volgograd
Less than 44 hours station to station!
Probably, it's more practical to take a bus or taxi to one of the stations on the line from Kyiv to Baku (via Volgograd) -- with a taxi, you could leave Sumy in the morning, and arrive to Volgograd the middle of the next day.
One thing you might have missed Durak.....it is the stop when crossing over the 'borders' when ALL passports are taken, reviewed and if a guard had a bad day or you had an 'american' passport, there is a slight chance you may be taken off train...taken to office and questioned...and there may also be a slight chance the train will leave without you...brush up on the russian.....happened to a guy a know......
.........as for my expeience, there ARE certain points easier to cross than others....crossing from ukraine to moldova and 'mistakenly' crossing through Tiraspol where I was taken off w/luggage and questioned about details( where to stay, how long stay, my passport, oh did I forget about how much $$$ I was carrying), well I showed a $20 and a $5 ...I sat there for 30-40 minutes by myself, during which time my 'ride' crossed the border w/out me, after what seemed hours, guards came back
told me to see guard at post, x-rayed my bag( umbrella looked like a weapon)I got stamp for paperwork and walked through border... luckily found a ride on other side( it was early afternoon). One last thing on that story....the guard at border never actually stamped my passport....hoping I would cross back there...then I would really be in deep doodoo....by the way the $20 layed on the table that I left, I wonder if it is still there???
Other crossing I did, I did go through Palanca, safer area, I still got a deep stare from guards when they saw my passport....talking to each other and staring at me......got through okay ( in a bus, as always only american).
I prefer FLYING into cities/countries...lots of people going through...no back alleys or in the middle of the night.
"Global Warming" hasn't thawed everything. Traveling on airlines will simplify things greatly. You would not likely get on board without proper visa. Traveling in and out of Russia by land will place you in the presence of officials that have less supervision over them and without the "unseen" pressure that is present in keeping air travel moving. THe airlines have high level connections in establishing routes and security zones. A taxis or train does not have that, you just get put off. My sister's airline had flights to Moscow, but even for them it was too difficult to continue service. It might be safer to fly to St. Petersburg seperately and meet there.
As for SPb (LED) airport, I arrived/departed there some 18 months back, my experience was totally hastle free, it was a joy to transit thru unlike Ukrainian airports where the officials are constantly trying to scam for $20.
Huck - hopefully they do something to improve the airports as part of building an olympic venue. I am already planning for trip in 2014. Already have two apartments to use. Won't have to pay for lodging :). It will be a nightmare for foreign travelers. I did register my visa in Krasnodar. But I jumped on a train (stayed within Russia) and spent a week down south close to Sochi. I do remember taking a picture of the airport marquis in Moscow. I just wanted it because it looked cool - dark and snowing. I was getting ready to board the plane - they bus you out and you walk up the mobile stairs. This 'cop' got out of the car and approached me waving his hands frantically. He wanted to confiscate my camera. I just put it in my pocket and waved at him as I walked toward the plane. The airport in Krasnodar is similar to many small commuter airports in America. You'd think a town of one million plus would have a decent airport... The Bozeman, Montana airport seems like a major international compared to this. Then getting closer to Sochi...it should be interesting for travelers.
My wife traveled to meet me in Kiev from Russia - over 24 hour train ride. She was very conscious of her passport at all times. Even traveling to Moscow for her seemed a hassle with checking id and such.
Muzzy, I was going to pass from Ukraine to Belarus. Worked on visa and everything but the wait precluded me from completing the trip. Then, naturally the lady wanted me to send her around $400 or so (cost of visa??? I don't think so) so she could meet me in Ukraine. She seemed very real because we spoke regularly on the phone. She bid herself out of the picture.
I did hear horror stories about crossing the borders of FSU countries. You'll probably need bribe money.
Just for the record, if some man should encounter a story like the one Ralph once heard -- in most cases, citizens of FSU countries don't need visas, in order to visit another FSU country for a few weeks. In particular, citizens of Belarus and Ukraine can visit each other's lands without a visa.
And while on the subject, Ukrainians making short (less than 90 day) visits to Russia DON'T have to register, either -- but this exemption does not apply to other FSU countries.