Less than a week after North Korea promised to “always stand in the same trench” with Russia, it seems even Pyongyang is losing faith in Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
After promising last November to help Russia rebuild bombed out parts of occupied eastern Ukraine, North Korean authorities picked out laborers to send and then even recruited some more—but they have now thought better of sending them, according to Daily NK.
“This is because they were going to rush the workers over if Russia quickly ended the war and expanded its liberated zones, but the war isn’t going as well as they thought,” a source in North Korea was quoted telling the newspaper.
“I think even our country [North Korea] can’t make its people run around a danger zone to earn money, no matter how important the cash is,” the source added, noting that the situation “isn’t good enough now” to invest human capital.
Instead, Pyongyang has reportedly decided to appease Russia by sending military and security personnel to eastern Ukraine. A source cited by Daily NK on Thursday said the North Korean government on Jan. 20 ordered several of its trading companies located in Russia to pick out personnel to be sent to the occupied territories.
Between 300 and 500 Korean men aged 19 to 27 are expected to be tossed into eastern Ukraine, though the tasks they will be assigned are not entirely clear.
The move comes just a few days after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister bizarrely praised Russia’s military prowess and blasted the “vile” U.S. decision to send Ukraine battle tanks.
“I have no doubt that any weapons that the United States and the West are proud of will burn to dust and turn into scrap metal in the face of the relentless combat spirit and might of the heroic army and people of Russia,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released to North Korean state media, adding that Pyongyang would “always stand in the same trench with the army and the people of Russia.”
While Ukrainian defense officials warn that Moscow may launch a renewed offensive in the next few weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly has a whole team of minions drafting a highly anticipated speech he is expected to deliver to the upper house of parliament in late February.
According to sources cited by Meduza, Putin will use the speech to double down on his provably false claim that the war against Ukraine enjoys “unconditional support” from Russian society.
But even the officials preparing the speech are said to be aware that they may be forced to drastically rewrite it if Russia suffers new setbacks on the battlefield.
If Ukraine conducts successful counter-offensives in the next couple weeks, two sources said, Putin’s speech will have “more aggressive” rhetoric.
“Everything will depend on the moment.”