North Korea Recognizes ‘Sovereignty’ of Pro-Russia Ukraine Separatists

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un att
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

The communist regime in North Korea announced through its state news agency on Thursday that it would recognize two separatist entities in Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics,” as sovereign states, following in allies Russia and Syria’s footsteps.

Donetsk and Luhansk collectively make up the Donbas region of Ukraine, which borders Russia and boasts a significant ethnic Russian population. Moscow has been fueling a civil war between the “people’s republics” and the government of Ukraine there since 2014, when Russia also forcibly colonized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Russia did not recognize the alleged sovereignty of the separatist groups in Donbas until this year, however, when it formalized its invasion of Ukraine by sending official Russian forces into the country and attacking Kyiv and its suburbs. The expansion of the invasion that occurred in February has largely given way to a full-scale Russian assault in Donbas and southern regions near Crimea; much of the violence around Kyiv has subsided.


Ukrainian soldiers on top of an Ukrainian armored fighting vehicle are pictured on a road in the countryside of Siversk, in Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine, on July 8, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

“The DPRK [North Korea] foreign minister sent letters to her counterparts of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk on Wednesday,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced Thursday. “In the letters, she informed them that the DPRK government decided to recognize the independence of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk and expressed the will to develop the state-to-state relations with those countries in the idea of independence, peace and friendship.”

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” enthusiastically announced the measure in a message on the encrypted application Telegram.

“The international status of the Donetsk People’s Republic and its statehood continue to get stronger. This is another diplomatic victory for us,” Pushilin declared, according to a translation by the Russian news agency Tass.

The Donetsk separatist leader added that he hoped the war-torn territory could expand “economic” relations with North Korea, one of the worst-performing economies in the world.

Russia, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, and North Korea are the only states to recognize the Donbas separatists as their own countries. Abkhazia, a separatist region in Georgia that Russia helped attack the Tbilisi government in 2008, also recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as “independent” states shortly after Russian strongman Vladimir Putin did in February. South Ossetia, the other Georgian separatist region involved in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, recognized the separatists in 2014, at the onset of the civil war in Ukraine.

KYIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 27, 2022 - President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during the official meeting with the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. This photo cannot be distributed in the russian federation. (Photo credit should read Hennadii Minchenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. (Hennadii Minchenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Ukraine, which maintained diplomatic ties with North Korea previously, angrily cut them following the announcement on Thursday.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine strongly condemns the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to recognize the so-called  ‘independence’ of the territories temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” Kyiv said in a formal statement.

The Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 11, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a gross violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, the UN Charter and the fundamental norms and principles of the international law,” the statement continued, asserting that North Korea’s opinion on the matter “is null and void” and “will have no legal consequences.”

The Associated Press

In this Jan. 7, 2020 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Damascus, Syria. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“In response to such an unfriendly act, Ukraine announces the severance of diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry proclaimed, noting that Ukraine had already cut economic ties to Pyongyang to abide by United Nations sanctions on the rogue communist state.

North Korean officials had hinted recently that they had considered moving in the direction of establishing “diplomatic” ties with Donetsk and Luhansk, sending top diplomats to meet with separate envoys in May. North Korean Ambassador to Moscow Sin Hong Chol met with representatives of both Donbas groups that month in the Russian capital city to help “build and intensify mutual cooperation,” a statement from the Donbas groups at the time claimed.

Russia and North Korea have maintained close relations under communist dictator Kim Jong-un. Russia is one of three foreign nations that Kim has personally visited – a short list that only otherwise includes China and Singapore. Kim met with Putin in Vladivostok, a western Russian city, in 2019 for a summit meant to enhance ties between the countries.

Russia largely supports North Korea on international stages like the United Nations, though it notably failed to use its veto powers in 2017 to prevent the Security Council from imposing unprecedentedly severe sanctions on Pyongyang over its then-latest – and, at press time, last – illegal nuclear weapons test. China, North Korea’s primary ally and fellow belligerent in the still-ongoing Korean War, also failed to stop the sanctions. The U.N. has, however, accused both China and Russia of evading North Korea sanctions to help keep the regime’s economy afloat and Kim in power.

North Korea’s state media arms, the only media North Koreans are legally allowed to consume, praised Russia on Thursday for hosting a “memorial meeting” for the country’s founder and Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung. The state newspaper Rodong Sinmun offered great importance to the meeting in its pages as a sign of respect and friendship from Moscow.

“A section head of the Asia 1 Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and other speakers highly praised the President as a man of great eminence who provided the revolutionary people fighting for the freedom and independence with the immortal Juche idea,” Rodong Sinmun narrated, “an iron-willed commander who founded the Party, state and army of Korea and defeated the two formidable imperialist foes in one generation and an outstanding state political activist who greatly contributed to the development of the DPRK-Russia relations.”

The Kim regime is one of the world’s most repressive, believed to be imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people in concentration camps for allegedly defying the regime or in any way failing to worship the Kim family.

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