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N. Korea's nominal head of state to attend Moscow Victory Day celebrations

North Korea's head of state, Kim Yong Nam, will participate in the 70th anniversary celebrations of the World War II in Moscow, according to state media. Earlier, the country's leader Kim Jong Un pulled out of the event.

"Kim Yong Nam (pictured left), president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, will pay a visit to Russia to take part in the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War to be held in Moscow," the North Korean state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday.

Moscow had invited Kim Jong Un (pictured right), the young leader of the isolated communist nation, to participate in the May 9 ceremony, but the Russian authorities confirmed Thursday that Kim had pulled out of the event citing "internal North Korean issues."

It would have been Kim's first overseas trip since coming to power in 2011.

The Red Square commemoration of the Nazi capitulation to the Red Army has become an extremely popular public holiday for Russians. Last year's festivities came right on the heels on Moscow's controversial annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Russia's invitation to Kim had sparked diplomatic controversy as a number of world leaders did not want to come face to face with the communist leader accused of widespread human rights abuses in his country. For decades, the Kim dynasty has ruled the impoverished East Asian country with an iron fist.

Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry has confirmed that President Xi Jinping would attend the Victory Day celebrations. Xi's trip would also include stops in Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, will not attend Moscow's annual Victory Day parade, but will visit the Russian capital a day later amid tensions over the conflict in Ukraine. Many Western countries, including Germany, accuse the Kremlin of backing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine by sending troops and equipment across the border.

shs/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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