On October 12, the Russian Embassy in North Korea posted on its Facebook page a photo of a map included in a new North Korean world atlas depicting Crimea as Russian territory.
The embassy posted the North Korean map in an apparent effort to advance Moscow’s view of the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula as legal, despite a UN resolution denouncing it as illegitimate.
The embassy said it was told by North Korea’s foreign affairs ministry that Pyongyang “respects the outcome of the referendum held in Crimea on the entry of the peninsula into the Russian Federation, considers its results to be legitimate and fully compliant with international legal norms.”
It added that North Korea had made its position on Crimea clear by opposing the 2014 UN General Assembly vote condemning the Russian-controlled referendum in Crimea and the Black Sea peninsula’s subsequent annexation by Moscow.
The timing of the posting by the Russian Embassy in North Korea comes as tensions have escalated between North Korea and the United States, and amid Pyongyang’s interest in expanding ties with Moscow in order to lessen the impact of sanctions the UN imposed for North Korea’s repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Polygraph.info could not confirm that Pyongyang made the statement cited above to Russia’s embassy. However, North Korea voted against the March 2014 UN resolution calling on member states not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea.
That resolution passed, with 100 member states voting in favor, 11 against and 58 abstaining. Along with Russia and North Korea, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe voted against the measure.
Russia is a veto-holding member of the UN Security Council, and since the vote took place in the General Assembly, the resulting resolution is non-binding.
The General Assembly affirmed in the resolution its “commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
The General Assembly further urged “all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Following the resolution, Russia continued to support separatist rebels in Ukraine, and to occupy Crimea, despite its own rhetorical support for upholding international law and respecting national sovereignty.
Moscow has also denied that the “little green men” wearing uniforms without insignia and spotted in Crimea after the ouster of Ukrainian President Yanukovich in 2014 were, in fact, Russian military forces.
Christian Marxsen, a senior research fellow with the Heidelberg, Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, has analyzed Russia’s actions in Crimea from the perspective of international law.
He concluded that Russia used “the threat of force” during the 2014 events in Ukraine, and that, after the Crimean referendum, its troops openly took “control of Crimea, seized Ukrainian military equipment, and forced Ukrainian troops to surrender.” These unjustified actions, Marxsen wrote, “violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity and this situation is perpetuated by the integration of Crimea into Russia’s territory.”
Speaking after the 2014 UN vote supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Ukraine’s then Interim foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, said of Russia’s actions in Crimea: “Many still struggle to grasp the reality – it happened in Ukraine, in the very heart of Europe. It happened in the 21st century.”
Western countries have since imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.