North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left Russia on Sunday, ending a visit affirming close ties with Vladimir Putin and fuelling Western fears that Pyongyang might provide Moscow with arms for its assault on Ukraine.
Kim’s extended tour of Russia’s far eastern region, which began Tuesday, has focused extensively on military matters, with his own entourage dominated by officers, a symbolic exchange of rifles with Putin and a tour of a fighter jet factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
Before departing, TASS said Kim had been given five explosive drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest as gifts from a regional governor.
The Russian agency said the “leader of the DPRK received five kamikaze drones and a ‘Geran-25’ reconnaissance drone with vertical takeoff”, using the official name of North Korea.
TASS said the governor of the Primorye region, which borders China and North Korea, also “offered Kim Jong Un a set of bulletproof protection” and “special clothing not detectable by thermal cameras”.
Later on Sunday the Ria Novosti agency published a video of Kim’s departure, and said a “departure ceremony” was held at the Artyom-Primorsky-1 station.
Footage shows Kim waving goodbye from his train to a Russian delegation led by Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov, before the Russian march “Farewell of Slavianka” is played as the train departs.
The official TASS news agency said that Kim’s train was headed around 250 kilometres (155 miles) towards the border.
Historic allies, Russia and North Korea are both under rafts of global sanctions — Moscow for its Ukraine assault, Pyongyang for its nuclear tests.
The first official visit abroad for the North Korean leader since the coronavirus pandemic has fanned Western fears that Moscow and Pyongyang will defy sanctions and strike an arms deal.
– Greater cooperation –
After meeting Kim on Wednesday at the Vostochny cosmodrome, roughly 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) from Moscow, Putin talked up the prospect of greater cooperation with North Korea and the “possibilities” for military ties.
Moscow is believed to be interested in buying North Korean ammunition to continue fighting in Ukraine, while Pyongyang wants Russia’s help to develop its internationally condemned missile programme.
The Kremlin has said no agreement has or will be signed.
On Saturday Kim met the Russian defence minister in Vladivostok, where he inspected state-of-the-art weapons including a hypersonic missile system.
The pair were seen smiling as they inspected some of Russia’s nuclear bombers at an airfield before boarding a warship, a video released by the Russian defence ministry showed.
North Korean news agency KCNA has described the atmosphere during Kim’s visit as “fervent and warm” and said a “new era of friendship, solidarity and cooperation” was opening between North Korea and Russia.
While meeting Kim, Putin accepted an invitation to visit North Korea and offered to send a North Korean to space, which would be a first.