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Satellite images show that a train crossed into Russia from North Korea, analysts say.

By BY MIKE IVES from NYT World

Satellite images shows a train crossed into Russia from North Korea on Friday, in some of the first observable rail traffic between the two countries since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, a Washington research institute said.

The report by 38 North, a project of the Stimson Center that specializes in North Korea, said that it could not determine the train’s cargo or the purpose of the journey. It follows warnings from U.S. officials that Moscow is increasingly turning to pariah states for military supplies to fuel its war in Ukraine.

Satellite imagery showed a three-car train crossing a bridge linking North Korea and Russia early on Friday afternoon, 38 North said. Later that afternoon, satellite imagery showed the same train at a station in Khasan, Russia, a little over a mile from the border, according to 38 North. It was parked alongside what the report said appeared to be covered rail cars or containers on flatcars on an adjacent track.

“Whether a transfer of material was in progress could not be determined, and the parked locations of these train sets may have been unrelated,” the report said.

The United States accused North Korea this week of covertly shipping a “significant number” of artillery shells to Russia to aid its war effort in Ukraine. The White House’s national security spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters on Wednesday that North Korea’s artillery shipments to Russia were being transferred through the Middle East and North Africa to obscure their origin.

North Korea said in September it had never supplied weapons or ammunition to Russia and has no plans to do so.

North Korea closed itself off in early 2020, grounding flights and shutting the borders with its two giant neighbors, China and Russia. Before the pandemic, China accounted for most of the North Korea’s external trade.

In February 2021, eight employees from the Russian Embassy in North Korea left the country, with their children, by what the Russian Foreign Ministry said was the only method available: a specially designed, hand-pushed railcar.

38 North said in its report on Friday that the train journey it had documented was the first between the two countries to be observed on satellite imagery “in several years.”

“It does not mean it is the only train that has crossed in recent months,” the report said.

Russian state media reported this week that a freight train had traveled to North Korea carrying 30 thoroughbred horses and that another train would carry medicine into the country.

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