Russia has launched multiple attacks on Ukraine using North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles over the past few days, according to statements from the White House and other officials. This represents a serious escalation of the conflict as Russia grows increasingly isolated under sanctions.
Russia Turns to North Korea for Weapons
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a press briefing on January 4th that Russia has used Iranian drones and North Korean missiles in attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian targets. He stated:
“We assess that Russia has also acquired ballistic missile equipment and missiles from North Korea to use in Ukraine.”
Kirby said Russia has been having trouble sustaining stocks of weaponry since the start of the invasion in February 2024, leading them to turn to countries like Iran and North Korea.
Other officials echoed Kirby’s statements. UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated there is evidence Russia approached North Korea for weapons supplies. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield also condemned Russia’s actions.
Details on Missile Types and Locations Hit
Officials stated Russia used short-range ballistic missiles acquired from North Korea, including the KN-23 which has a range of 460km, to strike targets in Ukraine.
Attacks were reported in multiple regions across Ukraine over the past week. On January 4th, a major missile strike hit an apartment complex and other areas in southern Zaporizhzhia. Attacks were also reported in Kharkiv, where regional governor Oleh Syniehubov stated missiles “not produced in Russia” were used.
Global Response Condemns Russia’s Actions
The revelations of Russia’s use of North Korean missiles brought wide condemnation from Western powers supporting Ukraine.
Thomas-Greenfield called for strengthening sanctions on North Korea in response. The US and allies may also send more advanced air defense systems to counter the new missile threat.
Experts warn cooperation between isolated regimes like Russia, North Korea and Iran also poses wider global security threats long-term. North Korea may receive economic benefits and intelligence from Russia by supplying the missiles.
Outlook: Escalation Expected as Russia Seeks More Weapons
Officials believe the North Korean missile launches indicate Russia’s weapon stockpiles are seriously depleted after months of attacks. Kirby said Russia has likely used up over half its precision-guided munitions reserved for a potential war with NATO.
With sanctions limiting Russia’s ability to produce more advanced missiles and drones domestically, the White House expects Russia will step up efforts to purchase ballistic missiles and other weapons from Iran. Kirby stated:
“We anticipate that they’re going to try to acquire additional material and munitions from both North Korea and Iran.”
This means the conflict in Ukraine could enter an even more volatile new phase. Zelensky and Ukraine’s Western allies recognize strengthening air defenses is now the number one priority to counter potential barrages of missiles and drones. Ukraine will demand additional advanced missile defense systems like Germany’s IRIS-T and the United State’s NASAMS to bolster protection of civilian areas and infrastructure.
Tensions with the West will surely rise if Russia unleashes salvos of Iranian and North Korean missiles on Ukraine, leading to calls for more sanctions. Putin may also resort to more drastic actions if the tide of the war shifts further against Russia. All signs point to the road ahead growing even more turbulent.
Table 1: Timeline of Key Events
|January 4, 2024
|White House states Russia used North Korean missiles to strike Ukraine
|January 5, 2024
|Attacks reported on Kharkiv & Zaporizhzhia regions
|January 5, 2024
|UN Ambassador condemns Russia missile use
|Early 2024 Outlook
|Russia will buy more missiles from North Korea & Iran
|Early 2024 Outlook
|Ukraine will demand more air defenses from West
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