Yoon’s office said he traveled to Ukraine with his wife, Kim Keon Hee, after trips to Lithuania for a NATO summit and Poland. It is his first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Yoon visited Bucha and Irpin, two small towns near Kiev where civilian bodies were found in the streets and in mass graves after Russian troops withdrew from the capital region last year. She laid flowers at a country’s war memorial before sitting down for a summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
South Korea, a key US ally in Asia, has joined international sanctions against Russia and provided humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine. But the Asian nation, a growing arms exporter, has not supplied arms to Ukraine in line with its longstanding policy of not supplying arms to countries actively involved in the conflict.
During a joint news conference with Zelenskyy on Saturday, Yoon announced plans to expand support shipments to Ukraine, but did not touch on arms supplies.
Yoon began his statement by mentioning the support of United Nations forces for South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, which helped repel a North Korean invasion.
“Ukraine’s current situation reminds us of the past situation of the Republic of Korea,” said Yoon.
Zelenskyy thanked Seoul for its “firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and for the “significant political, security, economic and humanitarian aid” it has provided since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.
Yoon said South Korea will increase shipments of non-lethal military items such as bulletproof vests and helmets this year. You said that South Korea will also provide humanitarian aid worth 150 million dollars [€133 million] this year, by $100 million [€89 million] last year. He said South Korea also sent demining equipment and other aid that had been requested by Ukraine.
Wagner mercenaries enter Belarus
The visit comes as a large convoy carrying fighters from the Wagner mercenary group was spotted entering Belarus from Russia, a monitoring team said after the country’s defense ministry said it planned for the mercenaries and the armed forces to Minsk conduct joint military exercises.
The independent monitoring group Belaruski Hajun, which tracks the movements of armed forces in Belarus, said at least 60 trucks, buses and other large vehicles had entered the eastern European country accompanied by Belarusian police.
The group did not immediately provide photos or videos of the vehicles, but said they had license plates from Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine, where Wagner mercenaries fought alongside Russian troops until a brief mutiny last month.
The convoy headed for a military base outside Osipovichi, a town 230 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border.