Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un a commemorative war medal to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory of Britain, Russia, and other allied forces over Nazi Germany in World War II, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang announced on Tuesday.
In its statement, the embassy said that it was presenting the world’s most repressive communist tyrant with the award for his regime’s preservation of the memory of Soviet soldiers who were buried on North Korean territory:
In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation and the Chairman of the State Council of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un has been awarded the jubilee medal for the “75th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945,” for his great personal contribution to preserving the memory of Soviet citizens who died and were buried on the territory of the DPRK [North Korea] and for the concern for the safety of burial places and memorials of Soviet soldiers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Kim Jong-un did not attend the ceremony. Foreign Minister Ri Son-Gwon was presented with the award by the Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matesgora.
It is not clear if the ceremony would typically be of the importance to attract Kim’s presence. His absence follows weeks of speculation regarding his health that recently culminated with him allegedly making a public appearance last week.
“[Ri and Matesgora] held a brief conversation during which they confirmed the spirit of continuing active efforts to consistently implement the agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries in Vladivostok in April 2019, aimed at further developing and strengthening multifaceted Russian-Korean cooperation,” the statement continued.
Photos of the meeting in Pyongyang showed all those in attendance wearing sanitary masks as a safeguard against the Chinese coronavirus, despite the fact that North Korea has yet to officially report a single case of the disease. Experts widely believe the country has been badly hit by the pandemic.
Putin awards medal to Kim Jong Un through the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
The medal was awarded for his role in preserving the memory of Soviet soldiers who died on North Korean territory, the statement says.
— EHA News (@eha_news) May 5, 2020
Kim Jong-un was scheduled to visit Moscow on May 9 to attend a military parade marking the anniversary of the victory, but the meeting and parade were postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia remains North Korea’s most steadfast ally, behind communist China, with Putin and Kremlin officials forging close diplomatic ties and opposing all attempts to isolate the Kim regime from the international community. Last year, Kim made his first official meeting with Putin in the Siberian city of Vladivostok. The Russian leader described the encounter as a “very wonderful time,” although nothing substantial with regard to plans to denuclearize the Korean peninsula was agreed at the time, or since it took place.