Officials in Moscow confirmed Friday that North Korean despot Kim Jong Un may attend ceremonies next year commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It would be Kim's first public foreign visit since coming to power in December 2011.
"Yes, such an invitation was sent," said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, speaking to Reuters.
The news comes at a conspicuous moment. On Friday, U.S. federal investigators accused North Korea of being behind the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. An escalation of cyber threats has compelled Sony to cancel the release of The Interview, a comedy that depicts two journalists being sent on a mission to assassinate Kim.
The film's plot riled Pyongyang and instigated a strange geopolitical spat, with many in the U.S. reacting angrily to Sony's acquiescence in the face of North Korean "terror."
Meanwhile, Putin held a defiant three-hour news conference Thursday during which he inveighed against the "external" forces that had conspired to undermine Russia's economy. Sanctions imposed by the West, a slide in oil prices, and a free-falling ruble have all made the end of 2014 a gloomy time for the Russian president. Putin's invitation to Kim is not just meant as a rebuke of the U.S. and its allies. Russia needs the North's cooperation in its bid to build a pipeline that would boost gas exports to South Korea, Reuters reports.