North Korea’s government recently ordered North Korean trading companies in Russia to select personnel to send to Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine so they can take part in reconstruction efforts, South Korean newspaper Daily NK reported.

According to Daily NK’s sources, the relevant order, among others, was issued to the companies Cholhyon Construction and Kumrung Construction, associated with the Ministry of Defense of North Korea.

Given that all these companies are affiliated with military or security agencies, it is presumed that North Korea intends to send soldiers or police personnel, as opposed to civilians, to eastern Ukraine.

The trading companies have orders to select young men between the ages of 19 and 27. Most are married and would leave their families behind in North Korea. This is reportedly done to dissuade defection attempts.

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The first group of North Korean citizens, upwards of 500 people, are expected to arrive in the occupied regions of Ukraine by mid-February or March.

The orders do not specify exactly what tasks will be assigned to these North Koreans in Ukraine, but they are unlikely to be involved in combat operations, the newspaper reports. Otherwise, the participation of the North Korean citizens in the conflict could make it appear as if Pyongyang has sent mercenaries to Russia.

The personnel will likely take part in reconstruction efforts, such as renovating buildings and repairing roads in the war zone.

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Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, North Korea has consistently supported Moscow’s position. Pyongyang voted against resolutions condemning Russia at the UN and was also the only one in the world to officially support the results of the sham “referendums” in the occupied Ukrainian territories.

At the end of January, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, made a statement that North Korea “will always be in the same trench with the army and people of Russia.”

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