Russian diplomats leave North Korea by hand-pushed trolley

Russian diplomats on hand pushed trolley
The group of Russian diplomats, which included children, pushed themselves for more than 1km over train tracks

A group of Russian diplomats and their family had to leave North Korea on a hand-pushed rail trolley due to Pyongyang’s strict anti-Covid-19 measures. The eight people travelled by train and bus before pushing themselves across the Russian border for about 1km (0.6miles) over train tracks.

North Korea has blocked most passenger transport to limit the virus’ spread. The country maintains it has not had any confirmed cases, but observers dispute this claim. Since early last year, trains and wagons have been forbidden to enter or leave the country, most international passenger flights have stopped as well. The Russian diplomats were thus left with little choice but to make an unusual journey. “Since the borders have been closed for more than a year and passenger traffic has been stopped, it took a long and difficult journey to get home,” Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs aid in a Facebook post.

Photos shared in the post showed the diplomats on the trolley with their suitcases amid a wintry landscape. The main “engine” was the embassy’s third secretary Vladislav Sorokin, who pushed the trolley across a rail bridge over the Tumen River into Russia, said the ministry. This was after the group, which included Mr Sorokin’s three-year-old daughter Varya, had travelled 32 hours by train and two hours by bus from Pyongyang to reach the Russian border. Ministry officials greeted them at a station on the Russian side, and the group then travelled by bus to the Vladivostok airport. Pyongyang’s strict anti-Covid-19 measures have affected travel movements and access to amenities. Extra troops have been sent to border areas with orders to block any possible transmission of the virus.

Over the past year, many foreign diplomats have left the country and Western embassies have closed. Most travellers have gone overland and crossed the border into China, although there was one flight in March last year to Vladivostock carrying diplomats from Germany, Russia, France, Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Mongolia and Egypt. Every year, hundreds of North Koreans make the perilous journey out of the country as they escape from the “hermit kingdom”. But the number of defectors has been steadily dropping in recent years, as authorities have clamped down.

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