North Korea backs Kremlin’s war in Ukraine as Kyiv missiles hit Russian fleet

Kim expected to seek Russian satellite and rocket technology in exchange for supplying ammunition to Putin

The leaders of Russia and North Korea have hailed their strengthening relations during talks that could result in Pyongyang selling arms to the Kremlin, as Kyiv’s military struck two of Moscow’s warships in its biggest missile attack on occupied Crimea.

President Vladimir Putin welcomed Kim Jong-un to the Vostochny cosmodrome in eastern Russia on Wednesday, where they discussed economic and military links and assistance for the satellite programme being developed by North Korea (DPRK).

“That’s why we came here,” Mr Putin said. “The leader of the DPRK shows great interest in rocket engineering. They are also trying to develop space.”

On his first foreign visit since the Covid-19 pandemic, Kim disembarked from his armoured train and reaffirmed the traditionally close ties between Moscow and Pyongyang and his support for Russia’s war on Ukraine, which the Kremlin portrays as a fight for survival against a hostile West.


“Relations with the Russian Federation are the very first priority for our country. I am sure that our meeting will be the next step to take relations to a new level,” Kim said.

“Now Russia has risen to the sacred fight to protect its sovereignty and security against the hegemonic forces that oppose Russia,” he added. “I also hope that we will always be together in the fight against imperialism.”

The United States has warned Pyongyang against selling arms to Russia to boost its armoury 18 months into its grinding all-out invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Putin said any deals would not breach what he called “restrictions” on co-operation with North Korea, which has been under United Nations sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear weapons and missiles programmes.

However, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said those sanctions “were adopted in a completely different geopolitical situation” and accused the West of lying about provision of humanitarian aid to North Korea and of breaking contractual obligations on arms supplies by sending Soviet-made weapons to Kyiv.

Moscow said two ships docked in Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, the main base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, were damaged in a Ukrainian missile strike early on Wednesday that also injured 24 people.

Kyiv officials, and at least one Russian blogger with close ties to his country’s military, said a large landing vessel and a submarine were hit, dealing a blow to a fleet that launches almost nightly missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian and military infrastructure.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe