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Russia starts direct oil supplies to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions

Russia starts direct oil supplies to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions Russia supplies oil to the DPRK in exchange for weapons
Author: Maria Kholina

Russia has begun supplying oil directly to North Korea in defiance of UN sanctions, further solidifying ties between authoritarian regimes and dealing a fresh blow to international efforts to rein in Pyongyang, according to the Financial Times.

At least five North Korean tankers have departed this month with oil products from the port of Vostochny in Russia's Far East, according to satellite images provided by the British analytical center Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), as reported by the Financial Times.

The deliveries, which began on March 7, mark the first documented direct maritime shipments from Russia since the UN Security Council - with Moscow's approval - imposed strict restrictions on oil supplies in 2017 in response to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons tests.

"These oil deliveries constitute a full-frontal assault against the sanctions regime, which is now on the brink of collapse," said Hugh Griffiths, former coordinator of the UN group monitoring sanctions on North Korea.

All vessels flying the North Korean flag and classified as tankers for oil product transportation docked at the same berth of a Russian oil company in the port of Vostochny, where they were loaded.

Росія почала прямі постачання нафти до КНДР всупереч санкціям ООН, - FT

Satellite images confirmed that two ships then sailed from the port of Vostochny to the North Korean port of Chongjin, where they unloaded.

"The vessels we’ve seen at Russian terminals are some of the largest-capacity vessels in North Korea’s fleet, and the vessels are continually sailing in and out of the port," said Joseph Byrne, a research fellow at RUSI. "Several of these vessels are also UN-designated, meaning they shouldn’t even be allowed entry into foreign ports, let alone involved in oil deliveries."

Oil in exchange for ammunition

The supply began after North Korea began shipping thousands of containers of ammunition to Russia in August last year, which military experts believe made a significant contribution to Moscow's military efforts in Ukraine. According to RUSI, the Vostochny Port was also used as a transshipment point for Russian vessels likely involved in arms trade between countries.

"What we can see now is a clear arms-for-oil bartering arrangement in open contravention of sanctions that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin signed off on personally, illustrating Russia’s trajectory in recent years from international spoiler to outlaw state," Griffiths said.