World

Russia is looking to North Korea to source weapons for the war in Ukraine, the US says.

Washington believes Moscow is aiming to provide Pyongyang with food and other commodities in return for arms.

It is the latest accusation that Russia, desperate for weaponry and hampered by sanctions and export controls, is turning to “rogue” nations for aid.

“As part of this proposed deal, Russia would receive over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Pyongyang,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“We also understand that Russia is seeking to send a delegation to North Korea and that Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for munitions.”

The White House has previously declassified intelligence to present evidence that Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia over the summer and that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, has taken delivery of arms from North Korea to help bolster its forces.

Experts believe the food situation in North Korea is the worst it has been under Kim Jong Un’s 11-year rule, but they still say they see no signs of imminent famine or mass deaths.

Mr Kim vowed to strengthen state control over agriculture and take a spate of other steps to increase grain production, North Korean state media reported earlier this month.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that US intelligence suggested China was considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia, though White House officials have said they have yet to see evidence of Beijing following through with weapons delivery.

Publicising Russia’s efforts to get weapons from North Korea is the latest example of the Biden administration making intelligence findings public over the course of the war.

The administration has said it has sought to disseminate the intelligence findings so allies and the public remain clear-eyed about Moscow’s intent and Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks twice about his actions.

Earlier on Thursday, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against a Slovakian national, Ashot Mkrtychev, alleging he attempted to facilitate arms deals between Russia and North Korea.

Between the end of 2022 and early 2023, the Treasury said Mr Mkrtychev worked with North Korean officials to obtain more than two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions for Russia in exchange for commercial aircraft, raw materials and commodities to be sent to North Korea.

Mr Mkrtychev worked with a Russian citizen to find commercial aircraft to deliver goods to North Korea in the exchange.

“Russia has lost over 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment since the start of the war, and thanks in part to multilateral sanctions and export controls, Putin has become increasingly desperate to replace them,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“Schemes like the arms deal pursued by this individual show that Putin is turning to suppliers of last resort like Iran and the DPRK.”

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