Twenty-seven Russian nationals residing in North Korea were evacuated to their home country on Wednesday, according to the country’s embassy in the DPRK.
The evacuation comes a day after North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) distributed a note about strengthened COVID-19 prevention measures to diplomats and international organization staff residing in Pyongyang.
North Korea’s leadership recently shifted the country’s anti-epidemic system to “maximum emergency” levels after convening a major Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee meeting on July 25, where members discussed the country’s first suspected case of COVID-19 allegedly caused by a redefector traveling from the South.
“Our citizens, including 10 children, traveled from Pyongyang to the Tumangang border station on a regular flight on Korean railways, where they were transferred to Russian [train] passenger cars,” the embassy’s Facebook post stated Wednesday (the post was originally in Russian).
The Russian citizens then used the railway to cross the DPRK-Russia border and arrived at the Russian border station of Khasan. The passengers are to be taken to Vladivostok from there, the post stated.
Aside from the people who live in Primorsky Krai, others are expected to fly to their areas of residence such as Moscow, Voronezh, Ryazan, Tula, Chelyabinsk, Tambov and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.
While the embassy did not reveal the reason for evacuating 27 citizens, it mentioned that the departure process was not easy due to the closed borders, the “continuous ban on movement” in the DPRK and the “cancellation of international flights.” The Russian embassy in the DPRK also emphasized that all 27 nationals went through multiple medical examinations and “passed a long quarantine” period. Those who crossed the border back home have “medical certificates confirming the absence of coronavirus” and will further be examined upon arrival to Russia.
North Korea’s official party daily newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, reiterated routine claims that the DPRK has zero cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Experts have long cast doubt on those claims, however, with the situation now even more unclear following news that a redefector “suspected” of carrying the virus arrived in Kaesong City earlier this month.
DPRK state media also reported Thursday that top North Korean official Choe Ryong Hae visited Kaesong on an unspecified date to inspect emergency anti-epidemic work in the city. Choe reportedly visited quarantine posts that were urgently set up in the area and emphasized the importance of providing enough food, medical goods and disinfection efforts for the people of Kaesong City.
On Tuesday, North Korea’s foreign ministry also told expats in Pyongyang not to travel outside the country’s capital and to wear masks when going outdoors. It also advised against holding banquets or large gatherings.
Edited by Kelly Kasulis
Twenty-seven Russian nationals residing in North Korea were evacuated to their home country on Wednesday, according to the country's embassy in the DPRK.
The evacuation comes a day after North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) distributed a note about strengthened COVID-19 prevention measures to diplomats and international organization staff residing in Pyongyang.