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Ukraine cuts ties with North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Yonhap News/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukraine has severed relations with North Korea after Pyongyang recognized two eastern territories of Ukraine as independent.

“We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.

“The North Korean regime’s recognition of the ‘subjectivity’ of the Russian occupational regimes in Donetsk and Luhansk regions is null and void, will have no legal consequences, and will not change the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine,” the statement said.

Russian media reported earlier on July 13 that North Korea had recognized the “independence” of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied by Moscow-backed separatists.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s statement also condemned North Korea’s decision and said in response to the “unfriendly act” Ukraine was severing diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Political and economic contacts had already been suspended due to international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said North Korea’s decision said more about Moscow’s “toxicity” than Pyongyang’s.

“Russia has no more allies in the world, except for countries that depend on it financially and politically, and the level of isolation of the Russian Federation will soon reach the level of isolation of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Ukraine will continue to respond as harshly as possible to encroachments on its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Kuleba said.

The North Korean Embassy in Moscow confirmed Pyongyang’s decision, making North Korea only the third country after Russia and Syria to recognize the two entities in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Denis Pushilin, head of a separatist group in the Donetsk region, said on Telegram that he hoped for “fruitful cooperation” and increased trade with North Korea, an isolated country more than 6,500 kilometers away.