By PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — It’s not your standard diplomatic transport.
A group of Russian diplomats and their families were obliged to use a hand-powered railway trolley to get home to Russia from North Korea because of travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
A video published by Russia’s foreign ministry Thursday shows the diplomats pushing the handcar, stacked with their suitcases, along a railway track through the barren landscape near North Korea’s northern border.
The ministry said the group had been working in its embassy in Pyongyang and was forced to improvise because travel connections between the two countries had been cut off for more than a year.
“Since the borders have been closed for already more than a year and passenger communication is suspended, it was necessary to get home by a long and hard path,” the ministry said in a social media post, accompanying it with a hashtag in Russian: “No man left behind.”
The group of eight embassy staff and members of their families, including children, first took a 32-hour train ride and then a bus to reach the border area, the ministry said, where the handcar was readied and mounted on to the tracks. The diplomats pushed the handcar for over a mile to get it across the border.
In the video, the group smiles and cheers as it crosses a bridge onto the Russian side of the border at Khasan, where the foreign ministry said the group was met by its representatives who were waiting with a bus. The group was then driven another 160 miles to the Vladivostok airport.
The Russian ministry said one of the diplomats, Vladislav Sorokin, was an embassy secretary.
North Korea closed its borders to international travel in January of last year. The country has insisted that it has no cases of COVID-19, a claim doubted by many experts.
Many countries have struggled to repatriate their citizens as well as their diplomats during the pandemic, as international air travel shut down and countries closed their borders. The U.S. State Department last April said it had evacuated 6,000 diplomatic staff from around the world as the pandemic spread, an unprecedented number.
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