UNITED NATIONS (NEWSnet/AP) — Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution Thursday in a step that effectively abolishes monitoring by U.N. experts of sanctions against North Korea, starting in April.

The sanctions, which are intended to throttle the country’s nuclear program, remain in place.

Enforcement by the international community, however, has been challenging and will become even more so in a few weeks.

Russia’s vote sparked Western accusations that Moscow was acting to shield its weapons purchases from North Korea for use in its war against Ukraine, which violate U.N. sanctions.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have heightened with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatening nuclear conflict and escalating tests of nuclear-capable missiles designed to target South Korea, the United States and Japan. The three countries have responded by strengthening their combined military exercises and updating their deterrence plans.

The Security Council imposed its first such sanctions after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion in 2006 and tightened them over the years. There have been a total of 10 resolutions seeking — so far unsuccessfully — to cut funds and curb the nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Security Council also established a committee to monitor sanctions along with a mandate for its panel of experts to investigate violations.

The Security Council resolution would have extended the mandate of the panel of experts for a year, but Russia’s veto halts that effort when authorization expires at the end of April.

The vote in the 15-member council was 13 in favor, Russia against, and China abstaining.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council before the vote that Western nations are trying to “strangle” North Korea and that sanctions are losing their “relevance” and “detached from reality” in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the country.

But U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood called the panel’s work essential and accused Russia of attempting to silence its “independent objective investigations” because it “began reporting in the last year on Russia’s blatant violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

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