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Covid North Korea: Russian diplomats leave North Korea on foot as Kim Jon Un shuts border

A group of Russian diplomats and their family members returned to Russia from North Korea on a hand-pushed rail trolley on Thursday because of COVID-19 restrictions in the country, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a Facebook post.

North Korea's leader and dictator Kim Jong-Un closed the country's borders to prevent the coronavirus from entering, with experts believing that he recognises the country's healthcare system would not be able to cope with a major outbreak.

'Since the borders have been closed for over a year and passenger traffic has been halted,' staff members of the Russian embassy in North Korea and their family members embarked on 'a long and difficult journey to get home,' the ministry said.

The group of eight people took a 32-hour train ride, followed by two hours on a bus.

A group of Russian diplomats and their family members (pictured) returned to Russia from North Korea on a hand-pushed rail trolley on Thursday because of COVID-19 restrictions

They then boarded a rail trolley and pushed themselves for around half a mile (around a kilometre) across the border into Russia.

A video posted by the ministry showed embassy staff with their children and suitcases on a trolley, cheering as two people pushed it across a railway bridge. 

The Interfax news agency reported on Friday morning that the group later took a flight to Moscow from the far-eastern city of Vladivostok.

Popularised in the 1800s, the trolley shown in the video - also known as a handcart - is powered by passengers through the use of a pump action lever. 

The Embassy posted pictures of third secretary Vladislav Sorokin pushing his family and luggage along the rail tracks, while wearing thick clothing against the cold.

The youngest of the group was Sorokin's 3-year-old daughter Varya, CNN said.

The Embassy posted pictures of third secretary Vladislav Sorokin pushing his family and luggage along the rail tracks, while wearing thick clothing against the cold (pictured)

Sorokin had to push the handcart for around 0.6 miles, part of which was over the Tumen River that separates Russia from North Korea.

Once they arrived in the isolated country, they were met by colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign affairs who accompanied them to the airport.

North Korea has claimed to be coronavirus-free, but has sealed its borders and halted passenger traffic with other countries. 

Popularised in the 1800s, the trolley shown in the video - also known as a handcart - is powered by passengers through the use of a pump action lever

Outside experts are highly sceptical of the North's zero-virus case claim, with the only nations coronavirus free being a handful of small, isolated island nations.

The departure of the diplomats demonstrates the ever-shrinking expatriate community in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.

Ex-pats are a valuable source of information inside the reclusive and secretive country.

But diplomats, aid workers and NGO staff inside North Korea are opting to leave, rather than risk being stuck inside its borders, which are strictly controlled.

Experts believe North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un closed the borders because he recognised the country's ill-equipped healthcare system would struggle to cope with the coronavirus

Foreigners that have chosen to stay have described an increasingly dire situation in the capital, with grocery stores running out of food and people losing their jobs, according to CNN who cited Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora.

North Korea severed all ties with the outside world in 2020 in an attempt to prevent coronavirus cases being brought into the country.

Experts believe North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un did so because he recognised the country's ill-equipped healthcare system would struggle to cope with the virus.

The tactic appears to have worked, with there being no indication that a major outbreak has taken place in the country.

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