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Russian diplomats leave North Korea by handcar due to coronavirus restrictions

Russian diplomats leave North Korea by handcar due to coronavirus restrictions
© Getty Images

A group of Russian diplomats and their families travelled home from their embassy in North Korea this week via an unusual mode of transportation — a hand-pushed railcar. 

CNN reported Friday that due to the border and flight restrictions imposed by North Korea during the coronavirus pandemic, eight employees at the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang were left stranded for months. 

The Russian families spent a total of 32 hours this week on North Korea’s outdated rail system, followed by a two-hour bus ride closer to the border. 

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From there, the Russians used a manual railcar loaded with their children and luggage across the final 0.6 miles that separates their country from North Korea. 

Video and pictures of the families showed them manually pushing the car from behind as they crossed over the border Thursday. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry shared photos of the families on Facebook, writing that the Russian Embassy’s third secretary, Vladislav Sorokin, was the "engine" of the handcar, with the youngest passenger being his 3-year-old daughter, Varya. 

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The foreign ministry added that the diplomats and their families were then greeted across the border by fellow foreign affairs officials. The diplomats were provided a bus that transported them to the Vladivostok airport. 

The North Korean government has imposed strict measures amid the pandemic, though the country has not reported any internal numbers on COVID-19 infections. 

While North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOn North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration North Korea drops out of Tokyo Olympics Biden should look to 'Ostpolitik' to negotiate with autocrats MORE has rarely spoken of the coronavirus publicly, during an address to the country’s first ruling party congress in five years in early January he admitted that he had failed in efforts to rebuild the nation’s economy, which has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. 

Kim told members of the congress that his “five-year economic development plan has fallen greatly short of its goals in almost all sectors,” adding, “We should further promote and expand the victories and successes we have gained at the cost of sweat and blood, and prevent the painful lessons from being repeated.”

U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program have also contributed to its economic troubles.