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Russian politician says North Korean workers should stay

By Elizabeth Shim
Russian politician says North Korean workers should stay
North Korean workers, more than 30,000 in total, are in Russia, working at construction and other sites. Pyongyang has asked a Russian official to allow the workers to stay, although the move may be a violation of international sanctions. File Photo by Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A Russian politician wants to allow about 3,500 North Korean workers to stay in the country, a move that could be a violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.

Russian news agency Interfax reported Friday Russian lawmaker Kazbek Taysayev was considering complying with demands from North Korea to keep the workers in Russia.

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"The North Korean embassy made the request through official channels," Taysayev said. "We accepted the request, and sent a petition, requesting the North Korean workers be allowed to stay in Russia."

The remarks from the Russian politician comes more than two months after the U.N. Security Council explicitly banned U.N. member states from allowing Pyongyang's state-sanctioned laborers.

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Resolution 2375 was unanimously adopted Sept. 11, and forbids the hiring of new North Korean workers and the extension of work visas for existing North Koreans after visa expiry.

The Russian press report claimed the "legal" North Korean workers already in the country, about 30,000-40,000 in total, will not be affected by the new international sanctions.

That statement contradicts remarks from a Russian specialist on Asia, who recently said "32,000 North Koreans" will "have to go back to North Korea" because of the sanctions.

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Russia has taken a more active approach to issues on the Korean peninsula, and may have tried to coordinate a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials in October.

The country is also hoping to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But allegations of doping have so far dashed the country's hopes of sending a team in February.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday Russia's national team will remain banned from competing until the Russian government publicly accepts results from Richard McLaren, a Canadian investigator, who has said Moscow operated a state-sponsored doping program.

Russian athletes were banned beginning in 2015, but were later allowed to take part in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

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