Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, refused an invitation to visit Moscow to mark the Soviet Union's victory in World War II because Russia refused to meet Pyongyang's demands for special treatment for the young dictator.

A spokesman for the Kremlin announced yesterday that Kim had "decided to stay in Pyongyang" due to "internal issues".

The North Korean leader's snub to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, apparently came as a surprise to Moscow, which only hours earlier had indicated that preparations for Kim's first overseas visit since he inherited the country in December 2011 were well under way.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim opted to remain in Pyongyang because Russia "refused to comply with the North's request for special treatment, given that there will be several other foreign dignitaries at the event".

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"Without top-grade security, Kim would inevitably have become a freak show for the global press," it added.

Being treated equally with other international leaders - and not enjoying centre-stage in the commemorative events, as he always does at home - would also have damaged his standing in the eyes of the North Korean public.

Analysts have suggested that the North Korean leader is still concerned about the degree of genuine support for his regime in political and military circles at home and is reluctant to give his rivals an opportunity to plot against him.

Kim may also have been reluctant to antagonise China further by holding talks with Putin before he meets with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.

Ties between Pyongyang and Beijing have been strained in recent years, leading North Korea to seek closer ties with Russia, but Kim will undoubtedly be mindful of the degree to which his country still relies on China for its survival.

Kim Myong Chol, executive director of the Centre for North Korea-United States Peace and a mouthpiece for the regime in Pyongyang, dismissed the reports as "nonsense".