Thursday, October 21, 2021

Russia and Myanmar junta leader vow to boost ties in Moscow meeting

From the very beginning Russia has refused to condemn the coup.

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Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and Myanmar’s junta leader committed to further strengthening security and other ties between the two countries at a Moscow meeting on Monday, Reuters reports.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing flew to the Russian capital on Sunday to attend a security conference this week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier on Monday said President Vladimir Putin would not be meeting Min Aung Hlaing, Interfax reported.

Rights activists have accused Moscow of legitimising Myanmar’s military junta by continuing bilateral visits and arms deals.

Russia says it has a long-standing relationship with Myanmar and said in March it was deeply concerned by the rising number of civilian deaths in Myanmar.

Defence ties between the two nations have grown in recent years with Moscow providing army training and university scholarships to thousands of soldiers, as well as selling arms to a military blacklisted by a growing number of countries for alleged atrocities against civilians.

Myanmar’s state-run MRTV devoted the first 10 minutes of its nightly newscast to a report of Min Aung Hlaing’s Russia trip, from him being met by officials at the airport to his meeting with the Security Council.

It showed a smiling Min Aung Hlaing in a business suit, posing for pictures, shaking hands and exchanging gifts with members of the council before attending a ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Moscow.

The MRTV report said Min Aung Hlaing and Patrushev discussed cooperation between the two countries on security measures, Myanmar’s current affairs and agreed to maintain a good relationship between their two militaries.

The East Asia Forum says from the very beginning Russia has refused to condemn the coup, with the foreign ministry merely expressing hope for “a peaceful settlement of the situation through the resumption of political dialogue”.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti justified the coup by arguing that the Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw, is the only viable guarantor of the multi-ethnic country’s unity and peace.

The most visible manifestation of Russian support for the junta came in late March, when Deputy Minister of Defence Alexander Fomin became the highest-ranking foreign official to attend Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day parade in the capital Naypyidaw.

While the military was violently cracking down on protestors, Fomin held talks with Min Aung Hlaing. He called Myanmar “Russia’s reliable ally and strategic partner in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific” and emphasised that Moscow “adheres to the strategic course of enhancing relations between the two countries”.

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