The United States is accusing North Korea of secretly supplying Russia with a significant number of artillery shells for use in the Ukraine war and is trying to hide the shipments by making it appear as if the ammunition is being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa, according to newly declassified intelligence.
US officials believe that the surreptitious North Korean shipments — along with drones and other weaponry that Russia has acquired from Iran — are further evidence that even Moscow’s conventional artillery arsenals have dwindled during eight months of combat.
Recent intelligence suggesting that the shipments are proceeding comes about two months after the US intelligence community said that it believed Russia was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield, CNN and other outlets reported at the time.
“In September, the DPRK publicly denied that it intended to provide ammunition to Russia,” the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said in a statement to CNN. “However, our information indicates that the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia’s war in Ukraine with a significant number of artillery shells, while obfuscating the real destination of the arms shipments by trying to make it appear as though they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.”
Officials did not provide evidence to support the new allegations. The declassified intelligence also did not provide details about how many weapons are part of the shipments, or how they would be paid for.
But American officials have publicly touted the alleged deal as evidence that Russia is struggling to maintain the necessary weapons stockpiles to continue to prosecute the conflict.
As recently as two weeks ago, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines argued that “export controls are forcing Russia to turn to countries like Iran and North Korea for supplies, including UAVs, artillery shells and rockets.”