Shunned by the International community, North Korea will mark 2015 as a “year of friendship” with Russia. The two countries will boost political and economic ties, and step up cultural exchanges as they mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. North Korean state-run news agency KCNA said the endeavor will include joint cultural events in Pyongyang, Moscow and other cities.

North Korea to mark 2015 as a 'year of friendship' with Russia

North Korean leader to visit Moscow on May 9

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from decades of Japanese colonial rule. The Russia-North Korea ties are shoring up against the backdrop of the North’s waning relation with its long-time friend China. Both Pyongyang and Moscow are the target of international sanctions. The United Nations had imposed restrictions on the North after it conducted a nuclear test in 2013.

The UN is also discussing North Korea’s record on human rights. Kim Jong-un has been accused of selling hundreds of thousands of “state-sponsored slaves” abroad to earn money. Kim Jon-un is scheduled to visit Moscow for the Victory Day celebrations on May 9. In November, the North had sent a special envoy to Russia in an attempt to improve relations.

Russia investing heavily in North Korea

The end of World War II is a source of pride for Russians as it marks the expulsion of Nazi occupiers. Russia has pivoted eastward in recent years as its relations with the West floundered. Last year, the Kremlin cancelled $10 billion of North Korea’s $11 billion debt, and said the remaining $1 billion would be reinvested in the country. Russia is expanding its economic ties with the North.

Russian investors have agreed to invest up to $25 billion to revamp North Korea’s creaking railroad system. That investment is in return for access to the North’s mineral resources. Private Russian companies have also agreed to rebuild North Korea’s power grid. Earlier this year, there were reports that Kim Jong-un had requested Russia to supply Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.