Russian diplomats push their way home with handcar out of North Korea


SEOUL (Reuters) - A group of Russian diplomats and family members used a hand-pushed rail trolley to leave North Korea this week, amid Pyongyang's strict 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 closings, banned most international travel, and severely restricted movement inside the country.

"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 said in a post on social media.

The group of eight, including a child as young as 3, travelled 32 hours by train and two hours by bus from Pyongyang just to reach the Russian border on Thursday, the post said.

The group then had to cross the border on foot, loading luggage and passengers onto to a trolley on the train tracks.

Photos and video released by the ministry show the trolley, laden with brightly coloured bags and suitcases, being pushed across a wintry landscape.

Embassy third secretary Vladislav Sorokin was the trolley's "engine", the ministry said, by pushing it for more than 1 km, including across a rail bridge over the Tumen River, which divides the two countries.

Ministry officials greeted the group at a border station on the Russian side, where they then travelled by bus to the Vladivostok airport, the post said.

During the past year, the number of foreign diplomats has dwindled, with many Western embassies closing, citing the bans on rotating staff. Those who left often had to negotiate for weeks to arrange for special measures to allow them to depart.

(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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