Vladimir Putin gifted a cosmonaut’s glove and a rifle to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his visit to Russia, which appeared to end early.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said he wasn’t sure how long the North Korean delegation would stay in Russia but there would not be any more meetings between Putin and Kim.
“This is their prerogative,” he said. “We appreciated the visit itself. It was timely, useful and constructive.”
Putin and other senior Russian officials showed Kim around the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far east of Russia on Wednesday. News agencies had reported that the two leaders would also tour a nearby arms factory and inspect the Pacific Fleet moored at Vladivostok but these tours appear to have been cancelled.
Instead, Putin hosted a teleconference with his security council and flew to Sochi to meet with Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian leader. There has been no information on Kim’s movements.
Putin’s gifts to Kim of the used cosmonaut glove and the rifle were part of a major Russian charm offensive around the North Korean leader’s first trip to Russia since 2019.
It wants to secure more ammunition for its war in Ukraine, although Kyiv has said that North Korea has been supplying Russia with artillery shells for the past month and a half.
No deals were announced during the trip but Mr Peskov said that it had been “very, very constructive” and that there would be a follow-up trip to North Korea next month by Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and then another by Putin at an unnamed date.
This was confirmed by North Korea’s state news agency, which also said that Kim’s trip had boosted friendship and relations.
“Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship,” it said.
Putin last visited North Korea in July 2000, seven months after taking over as Russia’s president.
Secrecy and high security have cloaked Kim’s first trip outside North Korea since the global coronavirus pandemic. Analysts said that Kim, who travelled into Russia on his armoured train, was looking for joint space technology programmes and food aid in return for ammunition.
Russian propaganda channels have crowed about Kim’s visit, describing it as a major diplomatic success.
“It’s simply incredible,” said Olga Skabeyeva, one of the Kremlin’s favourite propagandists. “Our friendship with North Korea is a strike against Wall Street.”
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