Situation Update: The Ukraine Crisis

Foreign Policy Brief #90 | By: Ibrahim Castro | September 13, 2023

Photo taken from: foreignpolicy.com

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Kim Jong Un and Putin meet

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently arrived in Vladivostok, Russia, for talks with President Vladimir Putin. The North Korean leader does not travel abroad frequently, making just seven international trips and twice stepping across the inter-Korean border in his 12 years in power. US officials say that the talks between the two heavily sanctioned nations are likely to discuss providing Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine in exchange for food, fuel, and nuclear weapons secrets to North Korea. Though Pyongyang and Moscow have denied that North Korea would supply arms to Russia, which has expended its once vast stocks of weapons after more than 18 months of war. The North Korean delegation includes prominent members of the party who handle defense industry and military affairs, including Munitions Industry Department Director Jo Chun Ryong, an analyst said, which suggests the visit will focus on defense industry cooperation.On Monday, Washington renewed its warnings to Pyongyang not to sell arms to Russia that could be used in war, and the US State Department said any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would violate UN Security Council resolutions, which ban any arms transactions with North Korea.

Drone attacks and air strikes

Last week the Russian defense ministry said that it had shot down three Ukrainian drones on their way to attack Moscow. Drone attacks on Russian territory have become an almost daily occurrence in recent weeks and disrupted flights in and out of Moscow as well as caused damage to residential and commercial properties in the capital city and other parts of the country. The governor of Russia’s southern Belgorod region, which is near Ukraine and now comes under frequent attack, recently said a drone had hit a sanatorium in a village, while another had been shot down. It was the latest in a surge of similar incidents, and once again forced Moscow’s airports to briefly suspend flights as a precaution. While Russian state television has largely played down the strikes, instead reporting on the success of shooting down enemy aircraft and highlighting Russian attacks in Ukraine. Meanwhile late last week several people were killed and scores wounded in Russian air strikes in different locations in Ukraine, including a deadly attack in which a missile struck the village of Odradakamianka in the southern Kherson region

Death of Prigozhin

Two months ago, Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin mounted a mutiny against Russia’s military, leading his mercenaries away from the war in Ukraine and turned toward Moscow. President Vladimir Putin decried his actions as treason and vowed punishment for those involved. Though the Kremlin instead strangely cut a deal with Prigozhin, saying he would be allowed to walk free without facing any charges if he were to resettle in Belarus. The question remained, however, about whether Prigozhin eventually would face consequences for the brief uprising that posed the biggest challenge to Putin’s authority in his 23 year rule. Late last month Prigozhin and his top lieutenants died in a plane crash. A preliminary US intelligence assessment concluded that an intentional explosion caused the plane to crash. The Kremlin has rejected these claims as a “complete lie”.Now with Prigozhins death and Wagner without its leader, fighters were offered a few options: to retire or enlist in Russia’s regular army and return to Ukraine as Russia looks to supplement its regular military ranks with fighters from the mercenary group.

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