Russia seeking new munitions from North Korea, White House alleges

A convoy of Russian military vehicles moving towards border in Donbas region
A convoy of Russian military vehicles is seen as the vehicles move toward the border in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine on Feb. 23, 2022, in the Russian border city of Rostov. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russia seeking new munitions from North Korea, White House alleges

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Russian officials are attempting to acquire munitions from North Korea, a Biden administration official alleged on Thursday.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Ashot Mkrtychev, a Slovakian national, whom the department accused of attempting to broker an arms agreement between the two authoritarian nations. The deal he sought to broker would have sent Russia more than two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions in exchange for materials ranging from commercial aircraft to raw materials and other commodities, according to the department.

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“We have new information that Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from North Korea,” National Security Council coordinator John Kirby told reporters.

“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,” he added. “Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions. We’ve taken note of North Korea’s recent statements that they will not provide or sell arms to Russia, and we are continuing to monitor this closely.”

Kirby noted that Mkrtychev is “cut off from the U.S. financial system, and he will face significant challenges in attempting to access and abuse the international financial system now that his activities have been exposed.”

The broker allegedly worked on the deal from the end of last year to the beginning of 2023, though they indicated both sides were close to completing the deal. He had confirmed Russia’s preparedness to receive North Korean equipment and that they were ready to receive the munitions.

“Mkrtychev’s negotiations with those officials indicated that necessary Russian preparations for a proposed deal were complete, and that they were ready to receive materials from and transfer materials to the DPRK,” the announcement from the department said. “He also provided DPRK officials with information from Russian officials, likely connected to his attempts to obtain military equipment for Russia from DPRK. Lastly, Mkrtychev worked with a Russian individual to locate commercial aircraft suitable for delivery to the DPRK.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions are “a clear message that the United States will not relent in targeting those who provide support to Russia’s aggression and brutal war against Ukraine. We will continue to identify, expose, and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK or any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine. This action is part of our ongoing efforts to undermine Russia’s ability to wage war, weaken its military-industrial complex, and deny the DPRK revenue it can utilize to further develop its U.N.-prohibited WMD and ballistic missile programs.”

Thursday’s allegation from the Biden administration is the latest accusation against “rogue” nations that it says are helping Russia conduct its war and subvert the sanction and export controls placed by Western allies of Ukraine.

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The administration has accused North Korea of providing the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization known for its ruthlessness, with infantry rockets and missiles for use in Ukraine.

Russia has received hundreds of unmanned drones from Iran, and the administration has accused Beijing of considering providing lethal aid to Moscow, though officials reiterate they haven’t seen the Chinese cross this line yet. The administration has sought to declassify and expose situations such as these in an attempt to shine a light on the alleged action to preempt the relevant party’s action or considered move.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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