Russia Falsely Denies Arms Deal with North Korea in Violation of UN Embargo

On January 26, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia is not carrying out military-technical cooperation with North Korea.

Military imports from North Korea violate the United Nations arms embargo originally adopted in 2006 and updated with intensified restrictive measures in the years that followed. Russia ratified the U.N. sanctions in 2010 under President Dmitry Medvedev and then again in 2013 and 2017 under President Vladimir Putin.

Zakharova claimed South Korea wrongly accused Russia of violating the U.N. arms embargo on North Korea.

“We have noted the markedly heightened temperature of the rhetoric from official Seoul directed at Moscow that Russia [as we hear and read information from South Korea] is allegedly carrying out ’military-technical cooperation’ with Pyongyang. …

“In this regard, we strongly reject any attempts by the U.S. and its satellites to illegitimately accuse our country. These are no longer simply unfounded accusations, but mudslinging and disinformation.”

This is false.

South Korea asserts that Russia imported from North Korea more than 1 million artillery shells, some of which Moscow already used in its war against Ukraine. The United States and others agree with that assessment, stating that intelligence reports and satellite imagery confirm the arms shipments.

In Russia, Putin and other top government and military officials openly confirmed talks with North Korea on increasing military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to the Russian Far East last September to meet with Putin and visit vital military installations.

Ahead of that meeting, Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported, citing Putin, that “negotiations” about military-technical cooperation with the North Korean leader are on the agenda. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also took part in the summit.

Putin confidante Sergei Markov, a member of the pro-Kremlin Foreign and Defense Policy Council, said, “[O]ne of the topics of discussion between the heads of the two countries could be the supply of ammunition from North Korea to Russia.”

The United States has repeatedly stated that Russia and North Korea — officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK — are intensifying their military-technical cooperation.

On November 2, 2022, John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said North Korea was secretly supplying significant quantities of artillery shells to Russia while concealing the true destination of the supplies.

On October 13, 2023, Kirby said that last fall, between September 7 and October 1, Russia purchased from North Korea more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and ammunition. The White House also showed satellite images confirming the delivery of military equipment and ammunition to Russia by ship and train.

On January 4, 2024, the White House said Russia had recently launched its first two strikes on Ukraine using short-range ballistic missiles (SLBMs) received from North Korea. Kirby, citing recently declassified intelligence, said Russia had launched North Korean ballistic missiles twice— on December 30, 2023, and January 2, 2024.

Reuters showed footage of the debris from missiles Russia used to hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on January 2 to Joost Oliemans, a Dutch researcher and expert on North Korea’s military.

Oliemans said, “It [the footage] appears to show the main body as well as the engine section of a missile that is pretty much a dead match for a North Korean type of missile that we’ve actually seen pretty clear photos of in the past few years.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also stated that Russia used North Korean missiles to attack Ukraine, tweeting: “[T]he Russian Federation for the first time struck at the territory of #Ukraine with missiles received from… North Korea.”

On January 9, 50 countries, including the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Australia, along with the European Union, signed a statement accusing Russia of receiving ballistic missiles from North Korea and using them in the war with Ukraine.

On January 11, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andrei Kostin said his office had received the first evidence of the use of North Korean missiles by Russian troops. Kostin added that Russia used North Korean-made missiles on January 2 to shell Kharkiv.

Later on January 11, the U.S. State Department announced sanctions against three Russian entities and one individual “complicit in the transfer to Russia and testing of DPRK-origin ballistic missiles by Russia since late November 2023.”

Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, told the Financial Times on January 21 that North Korea is the largest supplier of weapons to Russia.

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