North Korea and the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine will develop “equally beneficial bilateral cooperation,” Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin said in a letter to Kim Jong-un, North Korean state media reported Wednesday.

In July, North Korea recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine in the Donbass as independent states.

The move made North Korea only the third country after Russia and Syria to recognize the two breakaway entities.

Ukraine immediately severed relations with Pyongyang over this move.

Pushilin wrote a letter to wish Kim a happy Korean Liberation Day on Aug. 15, state news agency KCNA reported, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a similar message to Kim.

“The peoples of Donbas are also fighting for the restoration of their freedom and the justice of history today, just as the Korean people did 77 years ago,” the report said, citing Pushilin’s letter.

“The message expresses the belief that mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation will be achieved between the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is in the interests of the peoples of the two countries,” KCNA added, using North Korea’s official name.

Russia has justified its decision to launch the war, which it calls a “special military operation”, on the grounds that it is protecting Russian-speakers living there from “genocide”.

Ukraine accuses Russia of waging an imperial-style war of aggression.

Earlier, Pushilin said he hoped for “fruitful cooperation” and increased trade with North Korea, and officials from North Korea, Russia and separatist regions discussed the possibility of sending North Korean workers.

A 2017 UN Security Council resolution backed by Russia demanded that all countries repatriate all North Korean workers by December 2019 to stop them earning foreign currency for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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