Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked North Korea for supporting his actions in Ukraine and said their countries will cooperate closely to overcome US-led sanctions as he headed to Pyongyang on Tuesday for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Putin’s comments appeared in an op-ed piece in North Korean state media hours before he was expected to arrive for a two-day visit as the countries deepen their alignment in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with Washington.

Putin, who will be making his first trip to North Korea in 24 years, said he highly appreciates its firm support of his invasion of Ukraine. He said the countries would continue to “resolutely oppose” what he described as Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolarized world order based on mutual respect for justice.”

Putin also said Russia and North Korea will develop trade and payment systems “that are not controlled by the West” and jointly oppose sanctions against the countries, which he described as “unilateral and illegal restrictive measures.”

North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.

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