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Ukraine live briefing: Relations with Russia are ‘first priority’ for North Korea, Kim Jong Un tells Putin at summit

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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 to back Putin’s decisions amid the war in Ukraine.

U.S. officials have said that Kim and Putin, who are meeting Wednesday in Russia’s Far East, will probably discuss a potential arms deal aimed at restocking the arsenal of Russia’s military, which has expended much of its munitions in the war.

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.”

A Pentagon press secretary repeated U.S. concerns that the summit between Putin and Kim would focus on arms negotiations. The United States suspects that Moscow and Pyongyang will seek to strike a deal aimed at resupplying Russia’s military, which has expended much of its prewar munitions in Ukraine. “We would call on North Korea to meet its previous stated public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia, which will only end up prolonging the unnecessary war in Ukraine,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday.

Putin said he would discuss “all topics” when asked whether he would talk about “military-technical cooperation,” with Kim, according to Reuters, which cited Russian media. The United States and its Asian allies have also been concerned that Putin could help build Kim’s nuclear arsenal and modernize North Korea’s outdated conventional military.

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

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 at least six people, with three of them in serious condition.

The United States could complete F-16 training for a group of Ukrainian pilots by the end of the year, though it will take longer than that for them to be flying combat missions, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the head of Air National Guard said, according to the Associated Press. Loh said Tuesday that Ukraine’s most experienced fighter pilots could complete training in Arizona on the F-16 in as little as three months. After that, those pilots will get some more training in Europe, the AP reported.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said its forces recaptured a strategic group of oil and gas drilling platforms off the coast of Crimea, platforms Russia had seized in 2015 and used for military purposes. A video posted to the agency’s Telegram channel Monday and verified by The Washington Post showed Ukrainian soldiers climbing onto a drilling platform and removing a radar system. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.

Denmark will donate a military defense package worth approximately $833 million to Ukraine, the country’s ministry of defense announced Tuesday. The package, which includes tanks, ammunition, other vehicles and antiaircraft weapons, is the “largest financial donation to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion,” the ministry said. “A good reinforcement, thank you for it!,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Tuesday.

Zelensky will meet Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week. Israeli and Ukrainian officials confirmed the meeting, though they did not specify a date. Zelensky is expected to be in New York City for the high-level meetings of U.N. leaders and is scheduled to give a speech to the General Assembly on Monday. Tensions between the two nations have been high due to Israel’s continued relationship with Russia, as well as a pending visit from Israeli pilgrims to Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah.

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. Russian forces are irking their adversaries with attack drones and guided bombs, soldiers and analysts said.

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

Michelle Lee and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.

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