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North Korea-Russia flights due to take off for first time since the pandemic

By Lilit Marcus and Yoonjung Seo, CNN

(CNN) — Flights between North Korea and Russia are set to resume for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Air Koryo, North Korea’s national airline, is operating four flights between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, in southeast Russia, this month for the first time since 2020, a Vladivostok airport official confirmed to CNN.

The flights, Air Koryo 271 and 272, are scheduled to run once a day each on Friday, August 25 and Monday, August 28. The outgoing flight leaves Vladivostok International Airport (VVO) at 8:45 a.m. to arrive at Pyongyang International Airport (FNJ) at 11:15 a.m., while the returning flights depart North Korea’s capital at 1:15 p.m. to land in Russia at 1:55 p.m. Vladivostok’s time zone is one hour ahead of North Korea’s.

The two cities are about 680 km (423 miles) apart and are also connected by rail lines. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Vladivostok via his private train for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019.

North Korea, which already has some of the world’s most tightly controlled borders, essentially sealed off the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, several Russian diplomats had to take drastic measures to leave their posts in North Korea during the pandemic.

In February 2021, video footage emerged of one diplomat, his wife and their children crossing the border via a hand-operated pushcart on railroad tracks.

According to information shared by the Russian embassy at the time, the pushcart ride was only one part of a two-day journey to leave North Korea.

The family reportedly spent 32 hours on North Korea’s famously old, slow railway, switched to a bus, then took their luggage with them by handcart one kilometer (0.6 miles) across the Tumen River, which separates the two countries, before arriving in Khasan, the closest Russian settlement.

In contrast, traveling between Vladivostok and Pyongyang by plane takes one hour.

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