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'Everything is falling apart': North Korea even shocked Russian tourists

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'Everything is falling apart': North Korea even shocked Russian tourists

Russia and North Korea are getting closer to each other. This is not only evident through missile launches from Pyongyang. The first tourists allowed to visit North Korea after the pandemic also came from Russia. But the publicity trip leaves a bitter taste among vacationers.

Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang are better than they have been for a long time. The reason is the war in Ukraine. Russia needs ammunition for invasion, which it cannot sufficiently produce itself. In addition, components are missing due to Western sanctions. North Korea can supply it with ammunition, including missiles. A heavily isolated country that is also under sanctions could look to political support and assistance for its nuclear and satellite programmes, for example.

To strengthen the new friendship, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the far east of his country last September, where he received North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. As icing on the cake, Kim received a luxury car from Putin. Meanwhile, Ukrainian cities are being bombed by missiles from Pyongyang (including Western components).

Tour group of nearly 100 people in front of Pyongyang Airport.

Tour group of nearly 100 people in front of Pyongyang Airport.

(Photo: via Reuters)

However, it is clear that Putin's comfortable path should not be limited to military and technological cooperation. An example of this is the trip of Russian tourists to the neighboring country. Since the attack on Ukraine means that most Russians are no longer able to travel to many Western places, North Korea wants to step in and present itself as a tourist dream country.

Nearly 100 Russians who flew from Vladivostok to Pyongyang on February 9 were the first tourists North Korea has allowed into the country since the pandemic, during which it closed its borders. Before 2020, there were several thousand tourists each year, including from Western countries, who visited North Korea mainly out of curiosity. The Russian travel group was not just looking for relaxation: among the participants were journalists and representatives of the travel industry as well as bloggers and influencers, whose aim was primarily to publish beautiful photos of the dictatorship and drum up advertising. But that didn't really work.

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„It's surreal”

According to the Vostok Intour travel agency that organized it, the trip took four days. According to the British Radio Sky News Tickets cost the equivalent of about 690 euros. „The weather is great right now. It's the best time for winter vacation,” The Russian embassy wrote in Pyongyang to welcome them on Facebook and wish them “good mood and unforgettable impressions.” Vacationers have already had it – some reported from Air Koryo, North Korea's only airline. Sky News quoted one of the tourists as saying: “The plane is old and smells like mothballs.” Others reported technical defects in the 41-year-old machine. “Everything is falling apart,” he says.

Once in Pyongyang, tourists visited not only the statues of the country's founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il – a must-see for visitors – but also the monument to Juche ideology and a student event with accordion music.

They were accommodated at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, but were not allowed to leave the building on their own. The reason: “You don't speak Korean and may have problems,” says travel blogger Ilya Voskresensky. Radio Free Asia saida US government-funded broadcaster.

Voskresensky, On Instagram He documented his trip, and spoke of further restrictions: On the plane, while they were still in Russia, one tourist deleted unpleasant photos from his cell phone. In the country, it was not allowed to photograph construction sites and dilapidated buildings, only scenic and beautiful views. In addition, you were not allowed to move freely. He added: „We did not have the opportunity to talk to ordinary people in North Korea.”

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However, there were only a few people and cars on the streets even at rush hour, which shocked him. “Sometimes you see people, and it's surprising that they all look the same,” he said, referring to their clothing. He told CNN, felt „like a trip back in time”. The empty streets and lack of advertisements reminded him of his grandparents' stories from the Soviet Union. “It's surreal.”

A separate section is planned for Russians

Masikryong Ski Resort, which the group visited after a night in the capital, appeared to have received a better reception. The resort, which opened in 2014 near the city of Wonsan, east of the peninsula, is the only one of its kind in the country and was built on Kim Jong Un's instructions to attract tourists from China in particular. Western technology, which appears to have been smuggled in after sanctions, was also used.

The tour group was largely on their own because other tourists do not come to the country and a visit would be unaffordable for most North Koreans. But their guards were on their heels: Voskresensky shows a man skiing behind him in a video and writes: “This is our personal accompaniment, not paranoia.” After all, according to him, there were no restrictions on photography and filming here.

This may also be North Korea's plan: under no circumstances should Russian tourists explore the country or meet the locals. It would be much better if they kept to themselves in an enclosed area. Investigative portal Insiders Reports, citing a Russian regional authority on the border with North Korea, said its own holiday resort for Russian tourists was already being planned. Pyongyang wants to build 17 hotels, 37 guesthouses, shops and a four-kilometre-long beach on an area of ​​2.8 square kilometers on the east coast. This fits what the head of the Russian Tourism Agency says euronews “Some people dream of visiting North Korea,” he said. “North Korea is a wonderful country.” Russian state television also spoke enthusiastically about the travel destination. It is clear that a holiday there is in the interest of both governments.

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“I have never seen Korean cuisine”

On the other hand, the results for some of the travel group participants were more than mixed. For example, Voskresensky was not only shocked by the deserted streets, but also frustrated by the ubiquitous propaganda. “It is shocking how the cult of personality has crossed all limits,” he said. He also criticized the lack of Korean culture and cuisine. “I have never seen Korean cuisine in North Korea,” he said. “I feel like they lost that culture because of years of poverty and 'communist egalitarianism.'

The organization of the trip and constant surveillance also left other participants bitter: “The meticulous preparations for our visit seemed like a theatrical performance,” Elena Bychkova told CNN. “Amidst these scenes, I could not shake the feeling that North Korea also has another side, a side that is still hidden.”

Yulia Mashkova books After the trip: “I would never go there again for moral and ethical reasons,” although she speaks highly of the ski resort she visited. In another post, she described North Korea as a „totalitarian dictatorship.” The country has no tourist value. „Of course it's worth the trip. To get your dose of surprises, empathize with frightened Koreans and enjoy the contrast with their southern neighbors,” she wrote. On Instagram. I personally felt unwell, despite the overall pleasant trip.

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Cavalry: Runaway army horses gallop through London

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Cavalry: Runaway army horses gallop through London

At least two British Army horses galloped through central London on Wednesday morning. Pictures and videos circulating online showed how they were tied up and bound the animals Run through crowded streets dodging buses, taxis and cars. One of the animals appears to have a bleeding wound on its chest.

According to police in the financial district British capital The terrified officers were finally able to capture the animals. They should then be taken to a veterinarian by army representatives. Consequently The Daily Telegraph Up to five military horses have dumped their riders during a morning exercise. At least one soldier was injured.

Number of wounded

An army spokesman confirmed that several horses withdrew during routine morning training. All animals were captured and returned. A number of army personnel and a number of horses were injured and are receiving medical treatment.

The emergency service said it was called to an operation near Buckingham Palace that morning due to a rider falling from a horse. In total, there were ambulance missions to three different locations in London, and four people were taken to hospital.

Many army regiments maintain riding stables in the British capital. Army horses are a common sight around government buildings, in Hyde Park, and near Buckingham Palace.

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Sell ​​or ban: USA gives TikTok an ultimatum

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Sell ​​or ban: USA gives TikTok an ultimatum

As of: April 24, 2024 at 5:28 AM

Short video app TikTok has to separate from its Chinese parent company Bytedance in the USA. The Senate also decided on this matter. The company now has one year – otherwise there is a risk of being banned.

The Senate also approved the US law aimed at forcing a change in ownership of the short video app TikTok. This means that it is now on the table of President Joe Biden, who previously announced that he would sign it.

China-based Bytedance Group will have a maximum of one year to separate from TikTok. Otherwise, the app should be banned from US app stores. It is unclear whether the plan can hold up in US courts. A previous threat to ban it there failed.

Accusation of influence peddling

The Senate approved the bill overnight by a large majority of 79 votes to 18. Bytedance is seen across all parties in the US as a Chinese company that should bend to the will of the Chinese Communist Party. That's why there are warnings that Chinese authorities may gain widespread access to data from American users – as well as use the platform for political influence. TikTok has denied this for years.

“For years, we allowed the Chinese Communist Party to control one of the most popular apps in America, and that was dangerously short-sighted,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “A new law will force the Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good thing for America.”

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This law, which was passed for the second time in the House of Representatives a few days ago, this time forms part of a package aimed, among other things, at enabling new aid to Ukraine, which is under attack from Russia. That's why it passed through the Senate so quickly on the second try.

TikTok: Not a subsidiary of a Chinese company

The law puts Biden's Democrats in a dilemma: on the one hand, the president wants to take a tough stance on China, and on the other hand, the app is popular among young users, whose votes he needs to be re-elected in November. The Biden campaign team only opened a TikTok account this year.

TikTok confirms that it does not see itself as a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Bytedance is 60% owned by Western investors. The company's headquarters are located in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. However, American politicians counter that the Chinese founders, with a 20% stake, have maintained control thanks to higher voting rights and that Bytedance's headquarters are in Beijing, where they cannot escape the influence of the authorities.

TikTok has not yet commented directly after the vote. The company had already announced over the weekend that it wanted to take legal action against the law.

US courts blocked a similar ban attempt

TikTok claims to have 170 million users in the USA. During his US presidency, Donald Trump attempted to force the sale of TikTok's US business to US investors with threats of bans.

But the plan failed primarily because US courts suspected that plans to ban TikTok violated the freedom of expression enshrined in the US Constitution. An existing law in Montana that was supposed to ban TikTok from app stores there has also been suspended. Trump has now backed away from calls for a ban.

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Corruption allegations against Ivanov: Russian Deputy Defense Minister arrested

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Corruption allegations against Ivanov: Russian Deputy Defense Minister arrested

Corruption allegations against Ivanov
Arrest of the Russian Deputy Defense Minister

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One of Russia's deputy Defense Minister Shoigu is accused of accepting bribes. 48-year-old Timur Ivanov has now been arrested. Kremlin critic Navalny, who died in custody, had already accused him of unfair tactics in 2022.

More than two years after the start of the war, one of Russia's deputy defense ministers was arrested. The Russian Investigative Committee said on the Telegram application that Timur Ivanov is suspected of accepting bribes. The authority did not provide any details. He is accused of accepting bribes of at least 1 million rubles, or at least a little less than 10,000 euros, the state agency TASS reported. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

According to media reports, Ivanov, who has held this position since 2016, was primarily responsible for construction projects in the Ministry of Defense – including in the occupied eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was completely destroyed by the Russian army itself during the siege in the first months of 2016. War in 2022.

Navalny accused Ivanov two years ago

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has twelve deputies. Corruption allegations against the 48-year-old Ivanov had already been raised after the start of the war by the team of Kremlin opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who has since died in custody: In research published at the end of 2022, Kremlin opponents accused Ivanov of building estates in several regions. Russian by contractors funded by the Ministry of Defense.

Other investigative media also revealed corruption schemes by the Russian Ministry of Defense as part of the reconstruction of Mariupol. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said after the arrest that Putin and Shoigu had been informed.

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