Russia is buying millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea for its war in Ukraine, according to US intelligence.
Officials believe Moscow could purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future as the war drags on, the New York Times reported, citing the downgraded US intelligence finding.
The fact the Kremlin is turning to the isolated state demonstrates that “the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions,” a US official told the Associated Press.
The New York Times quoted US government officials saying the purchases showed US-led sanctions had begun to bite and to reduce Russia‘s ability to sustain its invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after US President Joe Biden’s administration confirmed the Russian military had taken delivery of Iranian-manufactured drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine in August.
Russia picked up the Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles over several days last month as part of what the administration says is likely part of a Russian plan to acquire hundreds of Iranian UAVs for use in Ukraine.
Last month a US official told Reuters that Russia’s Iranian-made drones had suffered “numerous failures”.
North Korea has sought closer relations with Russia as much of Europe and the West has pulled away, blaming the US for the Ukraine crisis and denouncing the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justification for Russian military action in Ukraine to protect itself.
Pyongyang has hinted about its interest in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in the country’s east.
North Korea became the only nation other than Russia and Syria to recognise the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk in July.
Its arms exports to Russia would be a violation of UN resolutions banning the country from exporting to or importing weapons from other countries.
Dispatching labourers to Russian-held territories in Ukraine would also breach a UN resolution requiring all member states to repatriate North Korean workers from their soil by 2019.
There are suspicions Russia and China have not fully enforced UN sanctions on North Korea, which has complicated the US-led approach to deprive North Korea of its nuclear weapons.