A new report identifies the transfer of ammunition from Pyongyang, through Russia to a newly constructed ammunition depot in Krasnodar close to Ukraine.
On Monday the UK think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) produced the report entitled “The Orient Express: North Korea’s Clandestine Supply Route to Russia.”
The RUSI report used dozens of high-resolution, open-source satellite images to show the passage of two Russian ships, “Angara,” and “Maria,” making at least four trips to move the containers between the North Korean port of Rajin to the Russian port of Dunai between the middle of August and the start of October.
The RUSI report follows a report last week, when The New York Times and other media reported that US intelligence agencies had identified a shipment of 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions from North Korea to Russia.
On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the reports from US intelligence agencies.
“They report this all the time, without providing any proof,” Peskov told Russian news agencies, AFP reported.
According to the RUSI report, the Russian owners of the “Angara” and “Maria” – M Leasing and Marine Trans Shipping – which have commercial and political links with the Kremlin, were sanctioned by the US soon after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank commented on a “dramatic and unprecedented” increase in rail traffic along the North Korea-Russia border last week on its Beyond Parallel website.
RUSI wrote that the munitions containers were moved, probably by rail, to a munitions storage facility in the small town of Tikhoretsk in southern Russia’s Krasnodar region. This is close to occupied Crimea and only 200 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.
Satellite imagery in the RUSI report showed how the existing ammunition depot had been expanded and extended between July and the end of September. This included the construction of more than 100 munitions storage pits protected by earth berms which are designed to prevent propagation between ammunition stacks in case of an explosion.
This expansion is illustrated in the post on X by Flash.ua overnight on Monday:
⚡️North Korea has established regular supplies of ammunition to russia.— FLASH (@Flash_news_ua) October 16, 2023
Experts from the British Royal Institute of Defense Studies analyzed satellite images of the Russian base in Fokino (Primorsky Territory) and the North Korean port of Rason. Between them, since August,… pic.twitter.com/V7qeCoKpty
RUSI said that North Korea’s supplying of ammo to Russia – making up for the depletion of its stocks arising from the war – in exchange for advanced Russian weapons and missile technology could have “profound consequences for the war in Ukraine and international security dynamics in East Asia.”
Russia and North Korea, historic allies, are both under rafts of global sanctions – Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine and Pyongyang for its nuclear weapon tests.
When Kim Jong Un visited Russia last month it was feared that the isolated dictator would agree to supply Moscow with weapons for its assault in Ukraine.
While Russia said no agreements were signed during Kim’s visit in September, Putin said he saw “possibilities” for military cooperation.Lavrov is expected to arrive in North Korea on Wednesday for a two-day visit. Details of the trip remain unclear.
North Korea, which the United States has previously accused of supplying shells to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, is a mass producer of conventional weaponry and is known to be sitting on large stocks of Soviet-era war material.
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