Kyiv severs relations after North Korea becomes only the third country to recognise the independence of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Ukraine has severed relations with North Korea over Pyongyang’s recognition of two pro-Russian breakaway “people’s republics” in Ukraine’s east.

Kyiv’s decision to cut ties with North Korea on Wednesday followed shortly after the news that Pyongyang had recognised the independence of two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

While Russian forces have set their sights set on the eastern Donbass region and are pushing for full control, the Ukrainian military is trying to reclaim captured land in the south. (AFP)

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

North Korea’s move to officially recognise the two breakaways – the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), both of which are located in Ukraine’s Donbas region – makes it only the third country in the world to recognise both entities after Russia and Syria.

The DPR’s embassy in Moscow had posted a photo on its Telegram channel of a ceremony in which North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow, Sin Hong-chol, handed a certificate of recognition to DPR envoy Olga Makeyeva.

In a post on his Telegram channel, DPR leader Denis Pushilin said earlier that he hoped for “fruitful cooperation” and increased trade with North Korea, an isolated, nuclear-armed state more than 6,500km (4,000 miles) away.

North Korea’s embassy in Moscow confirmed it had recognised the independence of both entities on Wednesday, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Russia, which has backed the two separatist regions since 2014, recognised their independence on the eve of its February 24 invasion of Ukraine in a move condemned by Kyiv and the West as illegal.

The Kremlin justified its decision to launch the war, which it calls a “special military operation”, by saying it was protecting Russian speakers who live in the Donbas region from “genocide”.

Kyiv and the West have dismissed these assertions as a pretext for waging war and seizing swathes of Ukraine’s territory.

North Korea previously expressed support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

SOURCE: REUTERS