Putin and Kim Jong Un against the World. Russian Media Monitoring Report, June 17–23, 2024

"A historical visit in modern Russian history" — this was the refrain used by Russian media to describe Vladimir Putin's visit to North Korea. Such epithets are often given to almost any foreign trip by the Russian president in the absence of contacts with the West.

Briefly About the Main Points

It is important for Russian media to show that Moscow has friends. Particularly valuable are those who openly support Putin's war against Ukraine. In this hierarchy, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surpasses other allies such as China, Iran, and Belarus, who publicly declare neutrality: "North Korea openly supports the special military operation (SMO). The only country. We should value it." However, the issue is not just about verbal support. Propaganda expects Pyongyang to increase the supply of ammunition, as well as tanks, artillery, and Korean workers in Russian factories. They also want North Korea to pressure Ukraine's supporters in Asia, and they claim that in the event of nuclear war, North Korea would strike the United States.

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Read about this and more in the new issue of our monitoring of Russian state media and manipulative websites that spread Russian disinformation.


Putin's Visit to North Korea

On June 18-19, the Russian president visited North Korea. Vladimir Putin had previously visited North Korea in 2000 when Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader Kim Jong Un, was in power. This highlights the changes in Russia and Korea over nearly 25 years — Putin remains a constant in Russia, while the Kim family continues to rule in Korea.

A few years ago, Russia officially supported sanctions against North Korea, but today, it has signed agreements with North Korea that include mutual defense assistance. Such is the price of invading Ukraine.

"Putin was impressed by Pyongyang's transformation over the past 24 years" summarizes propaganda with the complimentary remarks of the Russian president. Russian delegates reported about the excellent concrete roads in Pyongyang that they experienced during their morning jogs. Perhaps Korea does build high-quality roads for "people," as cars are less relevant. In Korea, cars are a luxury for society. The automotive industry, whose scale is unknown due to unavailable statistics, works for the military sector. Ordinary Koreans cannot afford to own cars.

Russian propagandists claim that Putin's meeting with Kim Jong Un worried Western countries. "The coordinator of strategic communications in the National Security Council, John Kirby, said that the US is concerned about the deepening relations between Russia and North Korea," — this alone made it worth Putin's trip to Korea.

Russian propaganda celebrates. The US and its allies are worried, and they deserve it for their attempts to isolate Russia. Now Moscow is friends with China, North Korea, Iran, and Belarus — true friends and partners who will not betray Russia. Together in a unified "combat alignment," they can overthrow Western dominance.

Kremlin media presents Putin's visit as an older partner visiting a younger one — a younger and very loyal one. "The Russian president arrived in North Korea on June 18. Kim Jong Un was waiting for him at the airport."

State media in both countries present this visit as a long-awaited meeting of two old friends. Russian state news agency TASS published footage of pre-arranged crowds preparing to greet the Russian president. They held many Russian flags, and some even had flowers. After all the ceremonies, Putin and Kim Jong Un took a special car to travel while standing.

Propaganda reports: "North Korean children greeted Putin. There was everything — Soviet songs, Russian flags, and, of course, thunderous cheers from the Korean people in honor of the dear guest from invincible Russia," "Large portraits of Putin and Kim Jong Un were placed on the building of the National Library (People's Study House)."

Russian propaganda has mastered a new genre: covering Putin's visits and visits to Putin must be done as pompously, detailed, and brightly as possible. So that no detail escapes the ordinary Russian. Disinformers will tell what the dictators eat, drink, listen to, what they sit in and on, and, of course, what they give each other: "Kim Jong Un gave Putin a pair of pungsan dogs, a North Korean breed... Putin was awarded the highest state award of North Korea — the Order of Kim Il Sung." And Putin gave Kim Jong Un a limousine, violating UN Security Council sanctions. The chronicle of the social life of autocrats.

No one knows what exactly Russia and North Korea will gain from Putin's meeting with Kim Jong Un. Some propagandists say it openly: "We will learn about the results from some facts recorded by Western intelligence and made public by them. And the later, the better. So just enjoy the beautiful show now. And news like Putin giving Kim an Aurus, a dirk, and a tea set."

But Russian propaganda has its own versions.

1. Weapons and Ammunition

"Now the fears that Western media broadcast about the supply of tons of North Korean ammunition to the Russian army will find their real embodiment on completely legal grounds."

Last year, North Korea began large-scale supplies of weapons and ammunition to Russia for use in the war against Ukraine. Propaganda promises that more help is coming. In 2023, millions of artillery shells from North Korea were sent to Russia: 152-mm and 122-mm shells for towed artillery, 122-mm rockets for BM-21 "Grad" MLRS, 120-mm and 82-mm mortar mines. North Korea's military-industrial complex produces products based on Soviet-era samples: tanks, artillery, and armored fighting vehicles. This weaponry is necessary for Russia, as Moscow does not have sufficient domestic production to maintain high wartime intensity.

Disinformers assure that North Korean help is crucial and beneficial. They expect not only artillery shells but also tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and artillery.

However, this time, propaganda did not actively discuss North Korean weapons superior to American HIMARS. Recall that in September 2023, North Korea's leader visited Russia by special train. At that time, disinformers claimed that Pyongyang could transfer such weapons to Russia: "The 'backward' North Korea has a 'missile monster' KN-25, which surpasses American HIMARS and M270 MLRS. No army in the world has such MLRS. The reactive projectile of this complex (caliber 600 mm, weight 3 tons) can hit targets at a distance of up to 400 km. Moreover, these are guided projectiles." So far, no North Korean superweapons have been noticed on the front.

2. Strong Rear and Pressure on Ukraine's Allies

"Vladimir Putin and the Chairman of State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Jong Un, signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement," "Relations between North Korea and Russia are entering a new era."

During the visit, a strategic partnership agreement was signed between the two countries. The document provides for mutual obligations in case of aggression against one of the participants and cooperation in the military sphere. The agreement repeats the Soviet-Korean military mutual assistance pact of the Cold War era. Some say it is an analog of the agreements between Ukraine and its allies: "The Russia-North Korea agreement on mutual assistance in case of aggression is not a military alliance. Assistance may be in the form of arms supplies. And even diplomacy. This agreement between Russia and North Korea is reminiscent of security agreements between Ukraine and NATO countries."

Propaganda reports that now Korea will pressure the region, where there are countries that sympathize with or support Ukraine. Mainly, this is Japan and South Korea. The message is: if they continue to help Kyiv, Moscow will not restrain Pyongyang. "Putin's visit to North Korea, which may be followed by a breakthrough in North Korean missile armament, air defense, and satellite reconnaissance, is the biggest defeat for South Korea and Japan in recent decades. But they are to blame — they supported sanctions against Russia and supported the Ukrainian Russophobic regime."

Moreover, North Korea directly pressures the US. Once, top propagandist Dmitry Kiselev claimed that Russia was the only country capable of turning the US into radioactive ash. Today, Russian propagandists are ready to transfer this status to North Korea: "Washington is trembling. They fear that as a result of the visit, Korean missiles will be able to reach all major US cities with nuclear weapons. That is, they will be in a longer range and, importantly, will receive satellite guidance from reconnaissance satellites."

Therefore, Washington should restrain itself and limit aid to Ukraine, as in a potential nuclear war, Russia has a strong and reliable partner.

3. Korean Workers

"Millions of shells will hit the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands of Koreans will quickly restore the cities of Donbas and Novorossiya, destroyed by these very shells."

Today, Russia faces a labor shortage. The war against Ukraine has exacerbated the problem. Official figures in Russia state: "The Central Bank of Russia: 70% of companies lack workers, including low-skilled ones." The policy of luring workers from Central Asia is not helping: "The reduction in the number of labor migrants is largely due to the weakening of the ruble and stricter migration laws for foreign workers, including from Central Asia (90% of foreign labor)."

Russian propaganda sees the solution to this dilemma in Korea: "Russia desperately needs many working hands. North Korea needs currency and food," "Sending them to build Mariupol and Bakhmut is a good plan."

A small detail remains unresolved — the use of North Korean workers is prohibited by UN sanctions, which Russia previously joined.

But disinformers explain that this was long ago, and now Moscow can ignore it: "Putin has already stated that this is a very unfair aspect of the sanctions," "How the problem of Korean workers will be solved is one of the mysteries of this visit."


Other Topics Covered

Strike on Sevastopol

On June 23, the Ukrainian Armed Forces carried out a missile strike on military targets in the Sevastopol area. Russian media reacted with hysteria. Official Russian propaganda calls it a "terrorist attack" — according to their statements, five people died, and almost 150 were injured.

Russian military claims that the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched an American-made ATACMS missile with a cluster warhead at Sevastopol: "Inhumans from the Armed Forces of Ukraine 'congratulated' us on the bright holiday of Trinity. On Sunday, in broad daylight, they struck Sevastopol with ATACMS missiles equipped (in violation of all conventions) with cluster warheads." According to the Russian military, the missile was deflected by air defense, and its fragments fell, including on a beach with vacationers. No independent confirmations of the Russian version based on physical evidence have been provided.

According to the Russian version, the main culprits of the tragedy are divided between Ukraine and the US: "The terrorist attack of the Kyiv regime on civilian objects in Sevastopol, which killed five and injured more than 100 people, was carried out with the participation of the US and aimed to intimidate Russians." US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy was even summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Through this tragedy, Russian propaganda tries to prove that the US is responsible for the deaths because they supply weapons to Kyiv and allow Ukraine to strike Russian territory. The Kremlin also tries to prove that Crimea is Russian territory.

Propaganda, of course, ignores some points. Firstly, Crimea is an occupied part of Ukraine, recognized as such by the international community. Secondly, the deaths are a direct consequence of the war initiated by Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry initially reported that one of the missiles was actually shot down by their air defense, and its fragments fell on the beach. Only later did Kremlin propagandists quickly switch to the formula of "a targeted strike on the beach."

It is also worth noting that Kremlin propagandists invented the "formula" to absolve themselves of responsibility — after each strike on residential areas or civilian objects in Ukraine, they blame the victims on the Ukrainian side, claiming that fragments of Ukrainian air defense missiles destroy and kill as they intercept Russian missiles and knock them off course. And if they were not interfered with, they would only hit military targets.

Dreams of Ukraine's Capitulation

Last week, disinformers wrote a lot about Ukraine's future defeat. They dream of "reestablishing Ukraine from scratch." Fugitive, former Ukrainian MP and open collaborator Oleh Tsaryov claims that after a Russian victory, Ukraine's "sovereignty restrictions" need to be established. He bases this on the Istanbul agreements of 2022: "These are new presidential elections, new elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, elections to local councils, the adoption of a new Constitution within new borders, with sovereignty restrictions. After all, the Istanbul agreements are de facto restrictions on Ukraine's sovereignty. That is, they cannot conduct exercises or bring in foreign military, except for short-term contingents in case of natural disasters."

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The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 500,000 news reports collected from ~ 1,000 Russian websites. The data for the analysis was collected and provided by SemanticForce.

Each paragraph was processed using an algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

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This article was originally written in Ukrainian. It has been translated into English using AI tools such as DeepL, ChatGPT, and Grammarly. If you encounter an error that requires immediate attention, please inform us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Your understanding and support are appreciated.

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