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Ukraine: Some 50% of Russian-launched North Korean missiles went off-course and blew up mid-air

Ukrainian state prosecutors analyzed debris from 21 out of roughly 50 North Korean ballistic missiles launched by Russia at Ukraine, uncovering a 50% failure rate with many detonating mid-air.
Debris of an allegedly North Korean missile’s tail part found in Kharkiv City in early January 2024, following a Russian missile attack. Photo via Ukrinform
Ukraine: Some 50% of Russian-launched North Korean missiles went off-course and blew up mid-air

Ukrainian state prosecutors have examined debris from 21 of approximately 50 North Korean ballistic missiles launched by Russia between late December and late February, investigating the threat posed by Moscow’s cooperation with Pyongyang.

Facing a shortage of domestic ammunition and restricted global market access, Russia has sought North Korea’s assistance for its war in Ukraine, reciprocating by helping Pyongyang unfreeze international assets and supplying oil products. Although North Korean missiles constitute only a small fraction of Russia’s strikes, their use has alarmed international observers, potentially ending nearly two decades of UN Security Council consensus aimed at preventing Pyongyang from expanding its nuclear and missile programs.

Andrii Kostin, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, told Reuters that the investigation also revealed a high failure rate among the North Korean missiles, details of which were previously unreported:

“About half of the North Korean missiles lost their programmed trajectories and exploded in the air; in such cases the debris was not recovered,” Kostin’s office said.

  • In a January attack on Kyiv, Russia targeted the city with at least one North Korean ballistic missile, believed to be either a KN-23 or KN-24 model. The debris was found after the missile was intercepted.
  • On 7 February, according to Kharkiv regional police, Russia used two North Korean missiles in a total barrage of five missiles to strike the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

  • According to a report by Ukraine’s Air Forces, among the six ballistic missiles Russia launched against Ukraine on the morning of 15 February, one might have been a Korean KN-23 missile.

  • In March, South Korea reported that North Korea has sent approximately 7,000 shipping containers filled with munitions and military equipment to Russia since last year. Various sources confirmed that the D​PRK is supplying artillery shells to Russia en masse.

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