It took a group of eight people, including a three-year-old, 32 hours by train and two hours by bus to reach the border on a “long and difficult” return journey.
A group of Russian diplomats and their family members used a hand-pushed rail cart to leave North Korea this week, amid Pyongyang’s stringent anti-coronavirus measures, which include blocking most forms of passenger transport across the border.
North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus but has imposed crippling border closures, banned most international travel and severely restricted travel within the country.
“Since the borders have been closed for over a year and passenger traffic has been stopped, it took a long and difficult journey to get home,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a post on social networks.
The group of eight, including a three-year-old, traveled 32 hours by train and two hours by bus from Pyongyang just to reach the Russian border on Thursday, the post said.
🛤 On February 25, 8 Russian employees of the Russian Embassy in the DPRK and their family members returned to their homeland.
🚩 With the borders closed for more than a year and the passenger traffic stopped, it took a long and difficult journey home …
– Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 🇷🇺 (@MID_RF) 25 February 2021
Translation: On February 25, eight Russian employees of the Russian Embassy in the DPRK and their family members returned to their homeland.
The borders having been closed for over a year and the passenger traffic stopped, it took a long and difficult journey home …
The group then had to cross the border on foot, loading luggage and passengers on a cart on the tracks.
Photos and videos released by the ministry show the cart, loaded with brightly colored bags and suitcases, being pushed through a wintry landscape.
The embassy’s third secretary, Vladislav Sorokin, was the “engine” of the cart, the ministry said, pushing it more than a kilometer (0.6 miles), including across a railway bridge over the river. Tumen, which separates the two countries.
Ministry officials greeted the group at a border post on the Russian side, where they then traveled by bus to Vladivostok airport, the post said.
Over the past year, the number of foreign diplomats in Pyongyang has declined, with many Western embassies shutting down, citing a ban on staff turnover.
Those who left often had to negotiate for weeks to take special measures allowing them to leave.
The North has not even confirmed a single case of COVID-19 – although experts have long said it is unlikely to have escaped the pandemic – and in September, the commander of US forces in the south said Pyongyang had issued shoot-to-kill orders in its border areas.
He imposed a strict border closure last January in an attempt to protect himself from the virus that first appeared in China, its main ally.
While denying a single case of COVID-19, Pyongyang attempted to steal information about coronavirus vaccines and treatments by hacking Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical company whose highly effective COVID-19 vaccine is given to millions of people in the world, the South Korean intelligence agency mentioned.