▶ Se­cu­rity sources say trans­fers at sea defy UN’s sanc­tions pro­gramme

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Rus­sian tankers have sup­plied fuel to North Ko­rea at least three times in re­cent months by trans­fer­ring cargo at sea.

The trans­fers in Oc­to­ber and last month in­di­cate that smug­gling from Rus­sia to Py­ongyang has in­volved load­ing car­goes at sea since it was re­ported in Septem­ber that North Korean ships were sail­ing di­rectly from Rus­sia to their home­land.

A Euro­pean se­cu­rity source said there was no ev­i­dence of Rus­sian state in­volve­ment in the sales.

“These Rus­sian ves­sels are giv­ing a life­line to the North Kore­ans,” the source claimed.

The sale of oil or oil prod­ucts from Rus­sia, the world’s sec­ond-big­gest oil ex­porter and a mem­ber of the UN se­cu­rity coun­cil with a right of veto, breached UN sanc­tions.

Rus­sia’s for­eign min­istry and cus­toms ser­vice de­clined to com­ment when asked on Wed­nes­day if Rus­sian ships had sup­plied fuel to North Korean ves­sels.

The owner of one ship ac­cused of the smug­gling de­nied any such ac­tiv­ity.

On Fri­day, China de­nied it had il­lic­itly shipped oil prod­ucts to North Ko­rea in re­sponse to crit­i­cism from the United States.

North Ko­rea re­lies on im­ported fuel to keep its econ­omy func­tion­ing. It also needs fuel for its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile and nu­clear pro­gramme that the US said threat­ens peace in Asia.

Ship satel­lite po­si­tion­ing data shows un­usual move­ments by some of the Rus­sian ves­sels named by the se­cu­rity sources, in­clud­ing switch­ing off the transpon­ders that give a pre­cise lo­ca­tion.

Se­cu­rity sources claimed the Rus­sian-flagged tanker Vityaz was a ship that had trans­ferred fuel to North Korean ves­sels.

The Vityaz left the port of Slavyanka near Vladi­vos­tok in Rus­sia on Oc­to­ber 15 with 1,600 tonnes of oil, Rus­sian port con­trol doc­u­ments said.

Doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted by the ves­sel’s agent to port con­trol showed its des­ti­na­tion as a fish­ing fleet in the Ja­pan Sea.

Ship­ping data showed the ves­sel switched off its transpon­der for a few days as it sailed into open wa­ters.

The se­cu­rity sources said the Vityaz con­ducted a trans­fer with the North Korean flagged

tanker in open seas dur­ing Oc­to­ber. The had turned off its transpon­der from the start of Au­gust.

The owner of the Rus­sian ves­sel de­nied any con­tact with North Korean ves­sels and said it was un­aware that the ship was fu­elling fish­ing boats.

Yaroslav Guk, deputy di­rec­tor of the tanker’s owner, Alisa in Vladi­vo­s­tock, said the ship had no con­tacts with North Korean ves­sels.

“Ab­so­lutely no, this is very dan­ger­ous,” Mr Guk said. “It would be com­plete mad­ness.”

An of­fi­cial at East Coast, the ves­sel’s trans­port agent, de­clined to com­ment.

Two other Rus­sian-flagged tankers made sim­i­lar jour­neys be­tween the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber and last month, leav­ing from the ports of Slavyanka and Nakhodka into open seas where they switched off their transpon­ders, data showed.

RIA Novosti press agency yes­ter­day quoted the Rus­sia for­eign min­istry as say­ing that Moscow “fully and strictly re­spects the sanc­tions regime” against North Ko­rea but that there were quo­tas in place, not a to­tal ban on oil im­ports, un­der UN Res­o­lu­tion 2397 ap­proved by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil last week.

Ship satel­lite po­si­tion­ing data shows un­usual move­ments by some of the Rus­sian ves­sels named by the se­cu­rity sources

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