Russia-Ukraine war news: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un meets Putin at Vostochny Cosmodrome

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur region on Sept. 13. (Video: Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in four years to state that his country views relations with Russia as a “first priority,” and he offered a complete endorsement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and violation of recognized international borders.

After the two leaders met, at a space facility in Russia’s far east, Putin said Russia is “discussing, thinking about” ways to cooperate with North Korea militarily and technically despite global restrictions, including sanctions, imposed in recent years on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile development and tests. U.S. officials previously warned that Kim and Putin were likely to discuss a potential arms deal to restock the arsenal of Russia’s military, which has expended much of its munitions in the war in Ukraine.

The sister of Paul Whelan, the American currently imprisoned in Russia on charges of espionage, is in Washington this week to meet with officials in Congress and members of the Biden administration. At a White House briefing, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Elizabeth Whelan’s visit would be “a good opportunity for us to update her on our efforts to get Paul back. And those efforts are very active and they’re very ongoing.” She told CNN on Wednesday that she hoped to meet with President Biden.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

According to the Kremlin, Kim told Putin at the summit, “We have always supported and stand by all decisions of President Putin and the Russian government.” The North Korean leader reportedly said that “Russia is now rising to the sacred struggle to defend its state sovereignty and protect its security,” adding that he hoped Pyongyang and Moscow would “always stand together in the fight against imperialism.”

Putin said Russia would look for ways to deepen military collaboration with North Korea “within the framework of the current rules.” “There are certain restrictions, and Russia abides by them,” he told the “60 Minutes Live” television program, “but there are things we can talk about.” Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions that Russia introduced against Pyongyang in the past “were adopted in a completely different geopolitical environment.”

Kim is expected to visit more sites in Russia after his meeting with Putin, Russian state media reported. The North Korean leader will travel to Vladivostok, a Russian city near the border with North Korea and China, the Russian state news outlet RIA Novosti reported, citing Putin. The Russian president also reportedly said Kim would visit factories for civilian and military equipment in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, more than 700 miles away, according to the news agency.

In remarks, Putin said that Kim would fly to Komsomolsk-on-Amur. If so, the trip would constitute a break from his preference of traveling by armored train.

The White House is watching for the outcome of Putin and Kim’s meeting, said Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, on Wednesday. “We’ve got to see what actually shakes out of this meeting and the degree to which any kind of an arms deal was consummated,” Kirby said. “If they decide to move forward with some sort of arms deal, we’ll obviously take the measure of that and we’ll deal with it appropriately.”

Before the summit between Kim and Putin, the Pentagon warned North Korea not to supply arms to Russia. North Korea is thought to have artillery shells and rockets compatible with Soviet and Russian weapons systems that Russia is using in Ukraine.

Drones attacked Ukraine’s Odessa region, Oleh Kiper, the Ukrainian governor of the area, said early Wednesday. The attack damaged port facilities, civil infrastructure and injured seven people, two of them seriously, Kiper said. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a statement that Russian drones had targeted port facilities along the Danube River. “Despite the aggressor’s attempts to reduce their export potential, the ports continue to operate,” he said. “At the same time, every attack on the port infrastructure of Ukraine is an attack on the food security of the whole world.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said two ships undergoing repairs in Sevastopol were damaged by an attack that it blamed on Ukraine. Air defense systems shot down seven cruise missiles, while a Russian patrol ship destroyed all enemy unmanned boats, it added.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military intelligence service said the strike damaged a Russian submarine and a landing vessel. The Washington Post could not independently verify the reports. At least 24 people were injured in the attack early Wednesday, according to Mikhail Razvozhaev, a Kremlin-appointed official overseeing the area, who said that the assault resulted in a fire.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said it was “highly likely” that “elements of Russia’s new 25th Combined Arms Army” have “deployed to Ukraine for the first time” — even though as recently as last month, recruitment ads for the unit “claimed it would only deploy to Ukraine from December 2023.”

The ministry said in its daily intelligence assessment that the unit could “have been rushed into action early” in part because Russia’s military is overstretched on the front amid Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive. But the ministry said the early deployment also could be an attempt to “regenerate an uncommitted reserve force in the theater to provide commanders with more operational flexibility.”

The Biden administration has drawn up a new system for responding to reports of civilians injured or killed by foreign forces using American-made weapons. The Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance, or CHIRG, will prompt officials to investigate such incidents, and outlines actions that can be taken in response, including the halting of arms sales. The news follows Biden’s decision in July to send controversial, U.S.-made cluster munitions to Ukraine. The weapons are banned by much of the world because unexploded bomblets can pose risks to civilians years after the weapon is fired.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine is making “great strides” toward joining the European Union, but she stressed that membership is a merit-based process, and she did not offer a timeline for Ukrainian membership.

In her annual State of the European Union speech Wednesday, von der Leyen said the European Commission would propose to extend temporary protection to Ukrainians. The program gives Ukrainian refugees the right to live, study and work in the 27-member bloc. But as The Post has reported, E.U. countries have in some cases fallen short of the program’s ambitious promise, with many Ukrainian refugees struggling to find jobs, register their children in schools and otherwise integrate into their host countries.

The E.U. on Wednesday removed sanctions on three Russian oligarchs, a rare move amid the war in Ukraine, during which the E.U. has imposed rafts of new sanctions on Russian people and entities. Of the three named in the rollback, Farkhad Akhmedov, Grigory Berezkin and Alexander Shulgin, Shulgin had won a court case last week arguing that the basis for the sanctions, his influence as the head of Russian online retail platform Ozon, no longer applied because he had stepped down from the position.

Romania’s Defense Ministry said that possible fragments of a Russian drone were found near Romania’s border with Ukraine — the third time in recent weeks that Romania, a NATO country, reported such a discovery, according to Reuters. The ministry said Wednesday in a statement that Romanian authorities were notified of the incident shortly before 1 a.m., amid an overnight attack against two Ukrainian port towns in Odessa.

“The Romanian authorities remain on alert and are conducting a full investigation,” acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White said of the incident. “NATO has no information indicating any intentional attack by Russia against Allied territory.”

A representative of the Catholic pope is expected to arrive in China as part of a push to facilitate peace in Ukraine, Chinese and Vatican officials confirmed. China and the Vatican have offered to help broker an end to the fighting in Ukraine, but it is not clear how much of a role they could play. Pope Francis has blamed both Russia and NATO for the war, and Ukrainians have at times accused him of creating false equivalencies. China, meanwhile, has declared itself to be neutral in the conflict in Ukraine but has not condemned the Russian offensive and has deepened economic and political ties with Moscow.

Russia ramps up drone, guided-bomb attacks to thwart counteroffensive: Moscow has stepped up aerial attacks against Ukrainian forces attacking Russian positions in southern Ukraine, exploiting Kyiv’s limited air defense systems and shortage of fighter jets, report Alex Horton and Serhii Korolchuk.

“It’s important to know that it’s relatively cheap stuff,” one military expert said. “And Russia has almost unlimited stocks.”

Maegan Vazquez, Missy Khamvongsa, Natalia Abbakumova, Emily Rauhala and Lyric Li contributed to this report.

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