The Russian embassy said on its verified Facebook page that the only way for Russian ambassadors and their families to leave the country was a complex journey.
A trolley, also known as a handcart, is a type of railroad car that became popular in the 1800s, driven by people using the pump action lever or manually pushing its car from behind.
The embassy released two images of Third Secretary Vladislav Sorok wearing thick winter clothes and pushing his family and their luggage onto the tracks. The youngest in the group is Varya, the 3-year-old daughter of Sorok.
The handcart had to be pushed one kilometer (0.6 miles) from Sorok, part of which was a bridge over the Duman River that separates Russia from North Korea.
When the family reached the Russian Kazan airport, they were met by colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, who helped them get to the airport in Vladivostok.
The departure of Sorok’s family and other Russian diplomats means that Pyongyang’s already small foreign community, a valuable source of information on one of the world’s largest and most secretive countries, is shrinking further.
Diplomats, aid workers and volunteers have chosen to leave North Korea rather than risk being trapped by the country’s flexible and tight border controls. Foreigners who have opted for gold in North Korea have described the worsening situation in Pyongyang, where grocery stores are running out of food and people are losing their jobs, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsekora has said.
North Korea has decided to sever all ties with the outside world by 2020 to prevent the spread of corona virus cases. Experts believe that Kim made this decision because he realized that his country’s dilapidated health care system would sink if it exploded.
Matsuegora said imports to North Korea have been almost completely halted since a devastating hurricane struck the Korean Peninsula in September. “The North Korean leader has openly acknowledged that there is no complete medical infrastructure here that can meet modern needs and deal with this problem,” he told the Russian news agency Interfax.
Kim’s strategy seems to have worked from a public health standpoint. North Korea has not reported a major outbreak of Kovit-19, and there are no signs of this happening, although experts suspect the country has not even found a single virus, according to Pyongyang.
Lack of food
“Life in Pyongyang is not easy for us,” Matzekora said. “During the months of self-isolation, the stock on the shelves has dwindled to a minimum. Buying even basic items like pasta, flour, vegetable oil and sugar is a challenge, and there are no decent clothes or shoes. Buy anything, which is usually three or four times more than the crisis.”
Matsukora’s comments are surprising, as North Korea has closer ties to Russia than any other country except China. Although Kim and other North Korean leaders have acknowledged that the virus has affected the country’s economy, they have not acknowledged that its food supply is poor.
WFP spokesman Kun Li said the organization had “not stopped its operations” in North Korea, but was facing challenges faced by many industries during the epidemic.
“Our mission has never stopped. Despite the challenges in providing food aid and bringing in supplies due to Govt-19 control measures, by 2020 we have brought in a limited amount of food; we have reached more than 500,000 people with food and nutrition, including vulnerable women and children,” Li Said in a statement. “Our work continues through our national staff in Pyongyang and the international staff on whom they are temporarily based.”
CNN’s Jack Quan and Evan Watson contributed to the report.