North Korea’s Kim inspects Russian fighter jets, as Ukraine claims battlefield win
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un peered into the cockpit of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet as he toured an aircraft factory Friday on an extended trip that has raised concerns about banned weapons transfer deals between the increasingly isolated countries.
Since entering Russia aboard his armoured train on Tuesday, Kim has met President Vladimir Putin and visited weapons and technology sites, underscoring deepening ties between the two nations locked in separate confrontations with the West. Foreign governments and experts speculate Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia for its war efforts in Ukraine in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.
On Friday, Russia’s state media published video showing Kim’s train pulling into a station in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Kim’s convoy sweeping out of the station on the way to the city’s aircraft factory.
Russia’s Cabinet later released video showing Kim, on an elevated platform, looking at the cockpit of the Su-57 — Russia’s most sophisticated fighter jet — while listening to its pilot. Kim beamed and clapped his hands after a Su-35 fighter jet landed after a demonstration flight.
According to a Russian Cabinet statement, Kim visited a facility producing Sukhoi SJ-100 passenger planes as well. It said he was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov.
“We are seeing potential for co-operation in the aircraft-making and other industries, which is particularly acute for solving our countries’ task of achieving technological sovereignty,” Manturov said in a statement.
Putin vows not to defy sanctions
Since last year, the U.S. accused North Korea of providing ammunition, artillery shells and rockets to Russia, likely much of them copies of Soviet-era munitions. South Korean officials said North Korean weapons provided to Russia have already been used in Ukraine.
The White House said the three national security advisers noted that any arms export from North Korea to Russia would directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions that Russia, a permanent member of the UN council, itself voted to adopt.
Putin said Friday that Russia would not breach any agreements concerning North Korea.
“Korea is our neighbour, and we must, one way or another, build good neighbourly relations with our neighbours,” Putin said.
“Yes, there are certain particular elements associated with the Korean Peninsula. We discuss this, we discuss it openly, we never violate anything and in this instance we are not going to violate anything.”
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, said no agreements had been signed during Kim’s visit on military issues or any other topic.
U.S. and South Korean officials on Friday stepped up their condemnation of the recent moves by Russia and North Korea.
Sasha Baker, the U.S. acting undersecretary of defence for policy, said that Washington will continue to “try to identify and expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment, again, to prosecute their illegal war on Ukraine.”
Kim is on his first foreign trip since April 2019, when he visited Vladivostok for his first meeting with Putin. During Wednesday’s summit, he vowed “full and unconditional support” for Putin in what he described as a “just fight against hegemonic forces to defend its sovereign rights, security and interests,” in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.
Kim is to travel next to Vladivostok to view Russia’s Pacific fleet, a university and other facilities, according to previous Kremlin statements.
Ukraine claims village of Andriivka
On the battlefield, Ukraine’s forces have recaptured a village in the country’s east after intense battles with Russian troops, the military said Friday as the invaded nation pursues a multi-pronged counteroffensive.
The village of Andriivka is located about 10 kilometres south of the Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut, the scene of the longest battle of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Its liberation would represent another gain for Kyiv in Ukraine’s campaign to oust Moscow’s troops from territory they captured.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces announced the reclaiming of Andriivka early Friday. The 3rd Assault Brigade said it took Andriivka after surrounding the Russian garrison in the village during what it described as a “lightning operation” and destroying it over two days. It called the successful action a breakthrough on the southern flank of Bakhmut and “key to success in all further directions.”
There was no confirmation or comment from Russia authorities.
The gains in the south are considered more strategically significant since they bring Ukraine’s troops closer to the shores of the Sea of Azov, where they could try to cut the land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. Isolating Crimea would divide the Russian-occupied territory in southern Ukraine and undermine Russian supply lines.