The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has invited the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to Moscow next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in the second world war, the Kremlin’s spokesman said on Friday.

It would be Kim’s first foreign visit since taking the helm of the reclusive east Asian state in 2011. His personal envoy travelled to Moscow last month as part of efforts by the two Cold War-era allies to improve relations.

“Yes, such an invitation was sent,” a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the state news agency, Tass. Russia marks the former Soviet Union’s 1945 victory every year on 9 May.

Moscow needs North Korean cooperation to boost its natural gas exports to South Korea as Gazprom would like to build a gas pipeline through North Korea to reach its southern neighbour.

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