Russia. US imposes sanctions on man seeking to sell North Korean weapons to Russia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it had imposed sanctions on a Slovak man for trying to arrange the sale of more than two dozen types of North Korean weapons and ammunition to Russia in order to to help Moscow replace military equipment lost in its war with Ukraine.
The action, which comes as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, is the latest in a series of sanctions imposed by the United States against Russia and its attempts to obtain military equipment. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and reduced cities to rubble.
“Russia has lost more than 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment since the start of the war, partly due to multilateral sanctions and export controls,” (Russian President vladimir) Putin is increasingly desperate to replace them,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
“Schemes like the arms deal pursued by this individual show that Putin is turning to suppliers of last resort like Iran and the DPRK,” she added, referring to North Korea as its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Treasury Department says it imposed sanctions on Slovak national Ashot Mkrtychev “for attempting, directly or indirectly, to import, export or re-export to, from or from the DPRK arms or related materiel.”
Between late 2022 and early 2023, Mkrtychev worked with North Korean officials to obtain more than two dozen types of weapons and ammunition for Russia in exchange for materials ranging from commercial aircraft, raw materials and products to send to North Korea, he added.
The Treasury said Mkrtychev’s negotiations with North Korean and Russian officials “detailed mutually beneficial cooperation,” adding that Mkrtychev had confirmed Russia’s willingness to receive military equipment from North Korea with senior Russian officials.
Thursday’s decision freezes all of Mkrtychev’s US assets and generally bars Americans from doing business with him. Those who engage in certain transactions with him also risk being hit with penalties.
The Russian embassy in Washington and North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mkrtychev could not immediately be reached for comment.
In December, the White House said the private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine. Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin denied the claim as “gossip and speculation”.
In November, after the White House said Pyongyang was secretly supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells, North Korea said it had never had an arms trade with the Russia and had no intention of doing so.


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