A newly declassified intelligence report is alleging that Russia is buying millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea, in what US officials say is the latest sign of desperation amid depleting Russian munitions after six months of war in Ukraine.
"The United States provided few details from the declassified intelligence about the exact weaponry, timing or size of the shipment, and there is no way yet to independently verify the sale," according to The New York Times, which was the first to reveal the declassified US intelligence. "A U.S. official said that, beyond short-range rockets and artillery shells, Russia was expected to try to purchase additional North Korean equipment going forward."
A month ago, Western media reports were widely circulating which said North Korea offered Russia up to 100,000 of its own troops to fight in Ukraine, however, the story was dubious and lacked evidence, with no statements from DPRK state media itself to back the claim.
What has been confirmed since then, is a major deal by Moscow for the purchase of hundreds of Iranian-manufactured drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine. There have since been reports that the drones have serious problems, and may not be functioning properly, making them less of a threat for Ukraine's defense systems to contend with.
Commenting on the new US intelligence alleging the North Korea weapons link, one anonymous US official told The Associated Press that it shows "the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions."
What is clear is that North Korea has taken steps to demonstrate its approval of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in July becoming the second outside country after Syria to recognize the independence of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk republics.
There could be new sanctions repercussions for Pyongyang if it is caught exporting military equipment to Russia. "The North’s arms export to Russia would be a violation of U.N. resolutions that ban the country from exporting to or importing weapons from other countries," the AP writes.
Ukraine responds to Russia buying arms from North Korea:— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) September 6, 2022
"Those who are unable to transform to NATO standards, switch to North Korean standards: be it weapons, politics, standard of living"
"Its possible dispatch of laborers to the Russian-held territories in Ukraine would also breach a U.N. resolution that required all member states to repatriate all North Korean workers from their soil by 2019," AP continues.
But it remains, as AP also observes, "There have been suspicions that China and Russia haven’t fully enforced U.N. sanctions on North Korea, complicating a U.S.-led attempt to deprive North Korea of its nuclear weapons."