“Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage and they’ve been forced to look to like-minded states for military equipment,” said White House spokesman John Kirby, who partially attributed Russia’s limited options to sanctions imposed by Washington.
Kirby presented a map showing the trajectory of Russia’s first known use of North Korean missiles on Saturday, launching from southern Russia and landing in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region — an area of intense fighting between Kyiv and Moscow.
The first strike landed in an open field, Kirby said. A second strike Tuesday was part of a larger overnight aerial attack that the United States has less information about. “We’re still assessing the impacts of these additional missiles,” Kirby said.
North Korea recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several dozen ballistic missiles, said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. intelligence.
“We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches — and we anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians,” Kirby said.
Kirby said the missiles have a range of roughly 550 miles and that their transfer violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. He vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations and to impose sanctions against individuals facilitating arms transfers between North Korea and Russia.
“We will not allow countries to aid Russia’s war machine in secret,” Kirby said.
In exchange for the ballistic missiles, U.S. officials believe North Korea is seeking a variety of military equipment from Russia, including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air-missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment and other advanced technologies.
Michael Kofman, a military analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Russia’s war effort is being bolstered by imports of weaponry.
“Russia’s mobilized defense industrial production is now producing significantly more missiles per month than it was before the war. However, this is still not sufficient relative to its needs and can’t replace the stockpile of missiles it’s expended over the course of the last two years,” he said. “That means that Russia would benefit from having access to an additional stockpile from countries like North Korea.”
While officials said Pyongyang had provided “several dozen ballistic missiles” thus far, the extent of weapons North Korea sent and how much it plans to provide in the coming months remain unclear.
In November, South Korea accused North Korea of supplying several types of missiles to Russia, including antitank missiles, portable anti-air missiles, ballistic missiles, and rifles, rocket launchers, mortars and shells.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Russia began receiving shipments of North Korean ballistic missiles several weeks ago.
The grinding war in Ukraine has seen little movement along the front lines since Kyiv’s stalled summer counteroffensive. But with the advent of winter, both sides have continued to pummel each other with missile and drone attacks.
In Ukraine, a war of incremental gains as counteroffensive stalls
On Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that its air defenses had repelled a major missile attack by Ukrainian forces on Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and Russian forces used as a staging ground for its full-scale invasion in 2022.
Russian antiaircraft systems shot down 10 Ukrainian “aircraft-guided missiles,” the ministry said.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of the Sevastopol region in Crimea, said on Telegram that the missile attack was the “most massive in recent times” on the peninsula, adding that one person was injured by falling shrapnel.
Ukraine’s military said in a statement that it had successfully struck “a command post of a formation of the Russian occupation forces near Sevastopol.”
The Russian and Ukrainian claims could not be independently verified.
Separately, a Russian missile attack on the southeastern Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi on Thursday killed one person and injured eight, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services said.
Debris from a missile also damaged a repair and production facility of Ukraine’s state energy operator Ukrenergo, the company said in a statement.
Stern reported from Kyiv. Kostiantyn Khudov, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.
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