Russia aims to send a delegation to North Korea as part of the Kremlin's ongoing effort to acquire more weapons from Pyongyang, according to a spokesperson for the United States National Security Council.
"We have new information that Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from North Korea," said John Kirby, the NSC strategic communications coordinator. "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."
Alleged arms dealer Ashot Mkrtychev is at the center of this latest effort by Russia to circumvent unprecedented Western sanctions and export controls over its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Kirby said Thursday.
The US Treasury Department issued sanctions against Mkrtychev earlier Thursday morning, accusing him of trying to facilitate an arms deal between Russia and North Korea.
"With this new pariah status also comes risks for those who provide support to him, as we will not hesitate to target such malign actors in the future," Kirby said, vowing to "continue to identify, expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from North Korea or any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine."
Some background: The US says Russia started purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea last year, as CNN has earlier reported. And toward the end of 2022, North Korea supplied infantry rockets to the private military company Wagner Group for use in the war in Ukraine.
US officials have characterized the purchases as a sign that Moscow's military has dwindling stocks of the weapons it needs to sustain the invasion.