Russia buying millions of weapons from North Korea, says US

Russia is buying weapons from North Korea, in a sign that Moscow is struggling to cope under the weight of Western sanctions, US officials have said.

Declassified American military intelligence indicates that the Kremlin is purchasing large numbers of rockets and artillery shells from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine.

An unnamed official confirmed the development to Reuters after the story first appeared in The New York Times.

Russia “continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions”, the US official said.

“We expect Russia could try to purchase additional North Korean military equipment going forward,” they added.

Moscow also recently purchased Iranian-made drones to plug military equipment shortages, according to US intelligence.

The Biden administration announced last month that these drones had suffered “numerous failures”.

Mason Clark, the head of the Russia team at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank, told The New York Times that Russia’s reliance on pariah states should trouble the Kremlin.

“The Kremlin should be alarmed that it has to buy anything at all from North Korea,” he said.

Frederick W Kagan, a military specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, echoed this view, telling the paper that Russia is unable or unwilling to scale up its own weapons manufacturing.

The military expert said the North Korean purchases are “very likely an indication of a massive failure of the Russian military-industrial complex that likely has deep roots and very serious implications for the Russian armed forces”.

The comments come days after Ukraine launched a counterattack near the Russian-held city of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

The counteroffensive has now spread to southeastern and eastern parts of the country, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Monday. He added that the action “speaks of a change in the situation as a whole”.

North Korea has shown its support for Russia throughout the war. After becoming one of the few countries to recognise the independence of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk provinces from Kyiv, Pyongyang expressed its willingness to send construction workers to Russian-occupied territory to help with rebuilding efforts.

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