- Russia is once again seeking weapons from pariah states like North Korea to fuel its war in Ukraine.
- Moscow is offering Pyongyang food in exchange for munitions, the White House says.
- North Korea has battled food shortages in recent years while Moscow faces weapons shortages.
Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for weapons, a top White House official said on Thursday, marking the latest instance where Moscow has turned to Pyongyang for help as it struggles to wage war in Ukraine.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Russia is seeking additional weapons and munitions from North Korea as part of the proposed deal. The US has previously accused North Korea — and other isolated countries like Iran — of backing Russia’s campaign by providing it with military assistance.
“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,” Kirby said, according to multiple reports. North Korea has battled crippling food shortages in recent years, a problem that even the country’s leader Kim Jong Un has acknowledged.
Russia’s embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Earlier on Thursday, the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on a Slovakian national for trying to broker arms deals between Russia and North Korea.
The Treasury Department said during this past winter, Ashot Mkrtychev worked with North Korean officials to provide Russia with more than two dozen different types of weapons and munitions. In exchange, Moscow would send Pyongyang various items that include commodities, raw materials, and commercial aircraft.
“Russia has lost over 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment since the start of the war, and thanks in part to multilateral sanctions and export controls, Putin has become increasingly desperate to replace them,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said in the statement.
“Schemes like the arms deal pursued by this individual show that Putin is turning to suppliers of last resort like Iran and the DPRK,” she added, referring to North Korea’s official name — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
US State Department Secretary Antony Blinken said Washington will continue to “identify, expose, and counter” Russia’s efforts to secure military aid from North Korea or any other countries. He added that the sanctions are part of an effort to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring revenue that it can use to develop its weapons and missile programs.
Russian forces fighting in Ukraine have relied on security assistance from pariah states like North Korea and Iran to fuel the war effort as it has battled weapons and munitions shortages over the past few months — which US officials slam as acts of desperation from Moscow.
Earlier this year, the White House revealed intelligence that it said showed North Korea providing rockets and missiles to the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, a notorious paramilitary organization. Russia also reportedly sought ammunition from North Korea.
Iran, meanwhile, has provided Moscow with explosive suicide drones that have been used to terrorize Ukrainian cities and the country’s civil infrastructure. A top UK envoy said in December that Russia offered Iran unprecedented military support in exchange for ballistic missiles.