The Wall Street Journal in a report accused Russia of violating international sanctions against North Korea by allowing thousands of North Korean laborers to work in the country.
The report on Thursday said over 10,000 fresh North Korean workers had registered in Russia since September.
The WSJ said Russia’s action were likely in violation of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang meant to reduce cash flow to North Korea.
It added that Russian Labor Ministry records revealed that a minimum of 700 new work permits had been issued to North Koreans in Russia this year.
The WSJ wrote that UN officials were probing the possible violations of the sanctions.
“It is estimated that North Korean laborers in Russia send between $150-$300 million annually to Pyongyang,” a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters.
The labor prohibition is a part of a broader array of international sanctions that are aimed at eliminating hard currency channels to Pyongyang.
In a report released on Thursday by the non-profit research organization C4ADS, initial anti-Pyongyang restrictions in China and Russia – where around 80 percent of North Korean laborers are believed to work – appear to have loosened.
“For a time, both Russia and China appeared to be expelling North Korean workers well before UN deadlines, but more recent reporting suggests that North Korea may have again begun to dispatch labor to both countries,” the report concluded.
A separate report released this week by the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies claimed that the Moscow-based Independent Petroleum Company (IPC) had sold between 2015 and 2017 far more oil to North Korea than what was officially reported.
“The amount of oil IPC sold to North Korea between 2015 and 2017 could be worth as much $238 million,” the report estimated. “This far exceeds Russia’s official report on its oil exports to North Korea during the same period, which amounted to $25 million.”
IPC was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in June 2017 over its trade with North Korea, and in December 2017 the UN imposed its strictest limits on North Korean imports to date.
In September last year, Reuters claimed that at least eight North Korean ships that left Russia with a cargo of fuel had headed for their homeland despite declaring other destinations.
Reuters cited US officials as saying that North Korean ships declare false destinations to neutralize the harsh sanctions imposed on the nation.