Ukraine conflict: Russia forced to import North Korean military kit - MoD

Vladimir Putin’s forces are being forced to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses in Ukraine bite, defence experts believe.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in their latest intelligence update that analysts think that Moscow is “increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states” as its own stockpiles are depleted.

In an intelligence update they said: “Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle.”

The update comes as Ukrainian troops continue to pressure on retreating Russian forces, pressing deeper into occupied territory and sending more Kremlin troops fleeing ahead of a counteroffensive that has inflicted a stunning blow on Moscow’s military prestige.

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As the advance continued, Ukraine’s border guard services said the army had taken control of Vovchansk — a town two miles from Russia that was seized on the first day of the war.

Moscow acknowledged that it had withdrawn troops from areas in the north-eastern region of Kharkiv in recent days.

Russian troops were also abandoning the southern city of Melitopol and heading towards Moscow-annexed Crimea, the city’s pre-occupation mayor said.

The MoD update also pointed to claims that Ukrainian forces had shot down an Iranian-made drone as evidence of Moscow’s use of systems sourced from Tehran.

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An elderly woman walks past a building partially destroyed by a missile strike in the centre of Kharkiv, on September 13, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine claimed it shot down the drone near Kupiansk as part of the offensive that has punched through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front.

The image suggested the Shahed “suicide drone” had been shot down by Ukrainian forces and had not detonated on impact as designed, though little information was released by the authorities in Kyiv.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “Russia has highly likely deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in Ukraine for the first time.

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“On September 13 2022, Ukrainian officials reported that their forces had shot down a Shahed-136 UAV near Kupiansk, in the area of Ukraine’s successful ongoing offensive.

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“The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 2,500 kilometres.

“Similar Iranian-manufactured systems have likely been used in attacks in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in July 2021.”

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Russian forces have sustained heavy losses since the invasion of Ukraine began in February, and sanctions have restricted access to key components for its weapons systems.

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is keeping the West guessing about whether Beijing will cooperate with tougher sanctions on Russia as he meets President Vladimir Putin, a year after declaring they had a “no limits” friendship ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

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China has avoided violating sanctions but its purchases of Russian oil and gas rose almost 60% in August over a year ago to 11.2 billion dollars (£9.6 billion).