Russia searches for North Korean ammunition as Bakhmut battle drains supplies – US

The Pentagon has repeated reports that Russia is turning to North Korea for supplies of ammunition for use in Ukraine.

The comments of a senior US military official on Monday come as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces remain focused on the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, which is at the center of fierce fighting.

The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Monday that Russian forces “are engaged in intense fighting over Bakhmut and are providing significant resources to keep up the pace.”

The think tank had previously said Russia is investing much of its firepower in the city, which has been hotly contested for months despite having little strategic value.

Amid claims that Russia was facing dwindling supplies of ammunition, the US official was questioned about reports that Iran was supplying Russia with weapons, including ballistic missiles, and what the impact might be on the battlefield.

Ukrainian tank
Ukrainian military drives an armored vehicle down a street in Bakhmut, Ukraine, December 12, 2022. The Pentagon has said Moscow is turning to North Korea for ammunition amid the raging Battle of Bakhmut.
Chris McGrath//Getty Images

The official told the background briefing, “Given this current state of Russia’s ammunition stockpiles, it’s not surprising that they continue to look at ways to work with countries like Iran — and North Korea — to try to gain additional capabilities.”

The official said Russia’s stockpiles of usable ammunition were “quickly dwindling” and that this would force Moscow to use stocks that “we would consider demeaning conditions.”

Russia is likely to struggle to replenish fully operational artillery and rocket ammunition from foreign suppliers, increased domestic production and overhaul, the official said.

“It’s not surprising that they are turning to countries like Iran and North Korea to try and get more reliable ammunition.”

Citing declassified intelligence information, The New York Times reported in September that Russia was buying artillery shells and missiles from Pyongyang and was trying to get more equipment from the rogue state.

In November, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said the US had information that Pyongyang was secretly supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells.

However, a North Korean defense ministry official said that Pyongyang “never had any arms deals with Russia” and had “no plans for the future,” calling the allegations rumors that were part of a “hostile attempt” by the US to “taint” the secretive country.

news week has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

There have been several reports that Russia’s missile stockpile was quickly depleted, although it can still launch significant strikes on Ukrainian targets, and the true state of Moscow’s arsenal is unknown.

A report last week by the UK-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research (CAR) says Moscow is still making cruise missiles with imported components. It had examined the remains of Kh-101 missiles marked with codes showing they were manufactured in 2022.

One of the report’s authors suggested that Russia may have found a way to circumvent sanctions to obtain missile components — or had significant pre-war reserves of those parts.

https://www.newsweek.com/pentagon-russia-ukraine-munitions-bakhmut-north-korea-1766637 Russia searches for North Korean ammunition as Bakhmut battle drains supplies – US

Rick Schindler

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