Russia buys millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea, US official says

The purchase indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, in part due to export controls and sanctions, according to the official.

The United States expects Russia may try to buy more military equipment from North Korea in the future, the official added.
The New York Times first report on the purchase. The two countries had established relations during the Korean War of the 1950s, with the former Soviet Union having been a major benefactor to North Korea, supporting the regime financially. North Korea blamed the United States and the West for the war in ukraine.
The news of Moscow buying weapons from North Korea follows a recent American assessment that Russia now has weapons-capable Iranian drones, also likely to be used in the war in Ukraine.

The United States believes that Moscow officially purchased the Mohajer-6 and Shahed series drones – the Shahed-129 and Shahed-191 – from Iran and transferred them to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine. Drones are capable of carrying precision-guided munitions and can be used for surveillance.

Russia is seeking to obstruct the Ukrainian military’s use of long-range precision artillery and rocket systems recently supplied by the West, including high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), on the battlefield. With HIMARS, Ukraine was able to precisely target and strike Russian command posts, logistics centers and ammunition depots far beyond the front lines.

Department of Defense Press Secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder told reporters during a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday that Russia had approached North Korea to “request ammunition”.

Russia’s request to North Korea is “indicative of the situation Russia finds itself in,” Ryder said.

“It demonstrates and indicates where Russia is in terms of logistical capabilities and support as it relates to Ukraine,” Ryder said. “We assess that things are not going well on that front for Russia, so the fact that they are reaching out to North Korea is a sign that they have challenges on the sustainment front.”

A sign that Russia may struggle to maintain supplies for the war in Ukraine

Ammunition availability will prove to be one of the most critical factors in Russia’s ability to sustain its war in Ukraine, US officials told CNN. It has been difficult to gauge Russia’s ammunition levels throughout the war, sources said, but its purchase of supplies from North Korea could suggest some Russian stocks are running out. US intelligence officials also believe the Russians are short of artillery shells and rockets, amid their scorched earth tactics of unleashing artillery barrages on Ukrainian cities over the past six months.

For now, however, the ammunition deficit does not appear to be particularly widespread, officials said. But it can be particularly acute for certain types of high-caliber multiple-launch rocket systems, small-caliber artillery systems and precision-guided weapons, said Michael Kofman, director of the Russia at the Naval Analysis Center. Kofman added that it will take time for Russia to significantly increase production to meet the high volume of ammunition expenditures during the war, something the Russian defense industry clearly did not anticipate.

In another signal that Moscow may struggle to maintain the resources needed for its now six-month-long war, Russia has also reallocated both manpower and equipment from remote military districts to the east and north, according to two sources familiar with US and Western intelligence.

And Russia decided earlier this year to restrict public access to information about its budget, including import and export figures. According to one such source, the blackout is a key indicator that Russia has been forced to aggressively redirect funding and other resources to the conflict – a fact it would like to hide from its public. The Kremlin continues to insist that it is not waging a war, only a limited “special military operation”.

CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.

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