- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2023

Russia is seeking weapons from North Korea in exchange for food, the White House said on Thursday.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Kremlin is planning to send a delegation to Pyongyang to hammer out the deal as the two countries deepen security ties amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

He said Russia is seeking more than two dozen kinds of weapons from North Korea as part of a series of deals.

“Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Mr. Kirby said.

North Korea has denied previous claims that it is supplying arms to Russia.

Mr. Kirby said that the Biden administration has taken note of Pyongyang’s recent statements on the matter and will continue to monitor the situation.

At the center of the arms deals is Ashot Mkrtychev, a Slovakian national whom U.S. officials say has worked with both countries to facilitate the arms transfers. 

The Treasury Department sanctioned Mr. Mkrtychev on Friday for “having attempted to, directly or indirectly, import, export, or re-export to, into, or from the DPRK any arms or related materiel.”

According to the Treasury Department, Mr. Mkrtychev worked with North Korean officials between late 2022 and early 2023 to obtain several weapons platforms for Russia in exchange for commerce aircraft, raw materials and commodities.

The White House accused North Korea of supplying Russia with artillery to be used in its war in Ukraine. Officials said North Korea attempted to obfuscate the final destination of the arms shipments by making it appear as though they were being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.

Officials say the weapons exchanges reveal Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desperation to resupply Russia’s dwindling arms as the war in Ukraine drags on.

The White House revealed last year that the Russian military was buying Iranian drones that have since been used in Russian attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

The administration said Iran had sent personnel to Russian-controlled Crimea to train Russian military personnel on flying the drones.

Iranian officials have denied accusations that they are supporting the Russian invasion.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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