Ukraine has severed relations with North Korea over Pyongyang’s recognition of two pro-Russian breakaway “people’s republics” in Ukraine’s east.
Kyiv’s decision to cut ties with North Korea on Wednesday followed shortly after it emerged that Pyongyang had recognised the independence of two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine.
“We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
North Korea’s move to officially recognise the two breakaway territories – the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in Ukraine’s Donbas region – makes it only the third country in the world, after Russia and Syria, to do so.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North’s state-run news agency, said foreign minister Choe Son-hui had sent letters to “her counterparts” in the two regions recognising the rebel-held areas.
Choe “expressed the will to develop state-to-state relations with those countries in the idea of independence, peace and friendship,” KCNA reported on Thursday morning.
Earlier, the DPR’s embassy in Moscow posted a photo on its Telegram channel of a ceremony in which North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow, Sin Hong-chol, handed a certificate of recognition to DPR envoy Olga Makeyeva.
In a post on his Telegram channel, DPR leader Denis Pushilin said he hoped for “fruitful cooperation” and increased trade with North Korea, an isolated, nuclear-armed state more than 6,500km (4,000 miles) away.
Russia, which has backed the two separatist regions since 2014, recognised their independence on the eve of its February 24 invasion of Ukraine in a move condemned by Kyiv and the West as illegal.
The Kremlin justified its decision to launch the war, which it calls a “special military operation”, by saying it was protecting Russian speakers who live in the Donbas region from “genocide”.
Kyiv and the West have dismissed these assertions as a pretext for waging war and seizing swathes of Ukraine’s territory.
North Korea previously expressed support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. It has also stressed its close ties with Russia, blaming the Ukraine crisis on the “hegemonic policy” of the US and other western nations.