The United States has accused North Korea of ​​supplying missiles and rockets to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The White House said the shipment violated UN Security Council resolutions and should impose further sanctions on Wagner.

Both North Korea and Wagner denied the report. News BBC.

The UK government says between 1,000 and at least 20,000 mercenary fighters have ballooned into Ukraine.

The group has also recently been active in Syria and African countries and has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters, ‘Wagner is seeking arms suppliers around the world to support his military operations in Ukraine.’

‘We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which has been paid for,’ he said.

The White House says the mercenary group has received anti-personnel rockets and missiles from North Korea.

Kirby said, ‘Wagner spends more than 100 million dollars per month in Ukraine.

He added, ‘The group now rivals the Russian military in terms of strength.’

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverley said, ‘Britain agrees with Washington’s assessment.’

“The fact that President (Vladimir) Putin is turning to North Korea for help is a sign of Russia’s desperation and isolation,” Cleverly said in a statement.

But Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin denied the claims, calling them ‘gossip and speculation’. North Korea’s foreign ministry called the report ‘baseless’.

A North Korean spokesman said their position had not changed and that weapons were sometimes exchanged between North Korea and Russia.

The Wagner group is believed to have first acted during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Its owner, Prigozhin, is known as ‘Putin’s chef’, allegedly because he turned out to be a Kremlin restaurateur and caterer.

Wagner’s influence and presence have been greatly strengthened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In March 2022, Wagner was thought to have sent just over a thousand initial troops. But UK officials say the number is now more than 20,000, about 10 percent of the total Russian forces on the ground.

Wagner recruits criminals from Russian prisons. UK officials said open-source estimates suggested the number of prisoners in Russian prisons fell by more than 23,000 in the two months to November 2022, the period it was commissioned.

Many convicts are believed to have joined Wagner, although there is no precise number. They have been told they will be paid and have their sentences commuted after six months on the front line.

(23 December/FA)