U.S. Puts Sanctions on Man Accused of Working on Russia-North Korea Arms Deal

The Biden administration said on Thursday that it was imposing sanctions on a Slovakian national accused of trying to broker a weapons deal between Russia and North Korea.

The sanctions against the Slovakian, Ashot Mkrtychev, were announced hours after Russia detained a Wall Street Journal reporter on accusations of espionage, and are part of a series of attempts by the United States to block off Moscow’s access to weapons as its invasion of Ukraine continues.

John Kirby, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Thursday that Mr. Mkrtychev was working with support of Russian officials to broker a secret agreement with Pyongyang, and said that doing so would violate several United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“As part of this proposed deal, Russia would receive over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Pyongyang,” Mr. Kirby said. “We also understand that Russia is seeking to send a delegation in North Korea and that Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for munitions.”

The United States has said for months that North Korean officials have secretly been shipping weapons to Russia, and American officials have vowed to move aggressively to enforce sanctions against people involved in that effort. In December, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against the Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary force with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin that is accused of serving as an intermediary between Moscow and Pyongyang. North Korea has denied involvement.

The sanctions against Mr. Mkrtychev would cut him off from the U.S. financial system, Mr. Kirby said, adding that “with this new pariah status also comes risks for those who provide support to him, as we will not hesitate to target such malign actors in the future.”

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the United States has sought to supply military aid to Ukraine and to isolate institutions and individuals affiliated with Mr. Putin.

“Russia has lost over 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment since the start of the war, and thanks in part to multilateral sanctions and export controls, Putin has become increasingly desperate to replace them,” Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement announcing the sanctions against Mr. Mkrtychev. “Schemes like the arms deal pursued by this individual show that Putin is turning to suppliers of last resort like Iran and the DPRK,” using an acronym for North Korea.

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