“Wagner is searching around the world for arms suppliers to support its military operations in Ukraine,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told reporters.
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The private military company took delivery of the arms shipment to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.
It is a sign of the group’s expanding role in the conflict.
“In certain instances, Russian military officials are actually subordinate to Wagner’s command,” Kirby added. “It’s pretty apparent to us that Wagner is emerging as a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries.”
Kirby said the U.S. has confirmed that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery, including infantry rockets and missiles to Ukraine, which will be used by Wagner personnel.
Approximately 50,000 Wagner personnel are now deployed to Ukraine – including 10,000 actual contractors, and some 40,000 convicts who were recruited from Russian prisons. Ukrainian forces have also taken great efforts to target the Wagner Group.
The mercenary unit had previously expanded its global footprint since it was first raised in 2014. It has also been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria, and Ukraine.
Armories of Terror
The revelations about the Wagner Group came just a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy’s historic visit to Washington – his first foreign trip since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion in February.
The fact that the Wagner Group has had to turn to North Korea also highlights that Russia is unable to meet the demands of the war effort. It increasingly relies on fellow pariah states for ordnance and other hardware.
This certainly explains the Kremlin’s ire over U.S. and other Western aid to Kyiv. Moscow is becoming increasingly outgunned as Ukraine is being supplied by the arsenals of democracy while Russia is relying on whatever it can get from the armories of terror.
U.S. assessment is that the amount of material being provided by North Korea would not greatly change the battlefield dynamics. The Russian and North Korean missions to the United Nations in New York have not commented on the news.
The United States accused Pyongyang and Moscow of violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea and will share its information with the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement on Thursday.
The European Union has also imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, accusing it of clandestine operations on the Kremlin’s behalf.
Putin has previously said the group does not represent the Russian state but suggested that any private military contractors have the right to work anywhere in the world as long as they do not break Russian law. Of course, many of Putin’s actions could also be considered war crimes.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.