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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Kim goes on Siberian walkabout
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
The media has been kept away from Kim Jong-il
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has arrived in the Siberian city of Omsk on the first main stop of his train journey to Moscow.

The reclusive Mr Kim made a rare public appearance at Omsk railway station, briefly stopping to talk to North Korean and Russian officials before being whisked away by car.

Mr Kim is due to visit a tank factory and a pig farm in Omsk on Wednesday after an earlier planned trip to a tank firing range was called off because of security fears.

Kim Jong-il's train
Mr Kim stayed on his train during a stop-over at Novosibirsk
It is Mr Kim's first trip abroad to any country apart from China and he chose to travel the entire 10-day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway because, it is said, he is afraid of flying.

On Tuesday night, Mr Kim visited a theatre in Omsk, where he was treated to a display of folk dancing and a military band.

A delegation from the Russian-North Korean Friendship Society had hoped to meet Mr Kim at the theatre but were not allowed in.

Despite a high level of media interest in Mr Kim's tour, foreign journalists have also been kept well away from the camera-shy leader.

Suitcase full of gifts

Earlier, Mr Kim and his entourage pulled in to Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city, where the head of state was expected to meet the widow of a peasant credited with saving his father's life.

However, Mr Kim did not emerge from the 21-carriage train during the 20-minute stopover.

Instead, a North Korean official presented 80-year-old Maria Novichenko and her five children with a suitcase apparently full of gifts.

Mrs Novichenko's husband, Yakov, a one-time Soviet officer, is said to have thrown himself on a grenade aimed at former Korean leader Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang in 1946.

The story emerged when the elder Mr Kim made a similar trans-Siberian journey to that of his son in 1984, when the Soviet Union was one of North Korea's closest allies.

Kim Jong-il will arrive in Moscow on Saturday, when he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks.

The BBC's Amanda Woods
"The reclusive leader has been sheltered from the cameras"
Dr Keith Howard, Senior lecturer of Korean studies
says North Korea feels that Russia can help it
See also:

26 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Kim dismisses 'rogue' status
25 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Kim takes slow route to Moscow
10 Jul 01 | Media reports
Russia marks Trans-Siberian centenary
12 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A military threat?
19 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: North Korea sets its price
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