A train seen making a rare crossing from North Korea into Russia on Friday is stoking fears that the hermit kingdom may be supplying the Kremlin with war materiel for its invasion of Ukraine.
The train sighting came on the heels of Iran’s acknowledgment that it had supplied drones to Russia, though the Islamic state claimed the shipments happened before the beginning of the war with Ukraine.
Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said his country had sent “a small number” of drones to Russia months prior to the Feb. 24 invasion. He denied that Tehran was continuing to supply drones to Moscow, and said that the initial shipment was used for Russia to monitor power stations and other civilian infrastructure.
“This fuss made by some western countries that Iran has provided missiles and drones to Russia to help the war in Ukraine — the missile part is completely wrong,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. “The drone part is true and we provided Russia a small number of drones months before the Ukraine war.”
The North Korean train was spotted on commercial satellite imagery crossing the Tumangan Friendship Bridge, the only land link between the two countries. It was the first observed in several years, according to a report from the think tank 38 North, which monitors the authoritarian country. North Korea closed the bridge in February 2020 when it shut its borders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday morning at 10:24 a.m. local time, a three-car set of enclosed railcars was spotted on one of the tracks alongside a freight handling area, the think tank said.
North Korea has already secretly supplied Russia with artillery shells, the White House said Wednesday.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN in a statement that Pyongyang was providing the Kremlin’s forces with “a significant number of artillery shells while obfuscating the real destination of the arms shipments by trying to make it appear as though they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were bracing themselves Saturday for heavy fighting as they continued to advance to occupied Kherson. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an evacuation of the strategic Black Sea port city.
Putin called on residents living in dangerous areas to leave. At least 70,000 people have already moved from the city — the only major urban center that Moscow has held onto since the invasion began, the BBC reported.
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