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Myanmar junta chief’s visit fortifies relations with Russia

The leader of Myanmar’s junta arrived in Russia on Monday to continue wooing the Kremlin into helping the military government stay above water amidst severe supply concerns and increasing international rebuke for its mishandling of opposition figures, including deposed leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Barred from representing Myanmar at most international gatherings since the country’s military took over the country and detained democratically elected Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing first visited Moscow as leader in June last year. At the time both sides committed to strengthening military cooperation. Another visit, which Moscow labelled as “a private one”, took place in July.

As reported by Myanmar state media, Senior General Aung Hlaing is set to attend an economic summit, visit landmarks, universities and factories while his ministers and senior military officials would meet counterparts and “cement friendly cooperation”.

Myanmar, under the heavy-handed military rule and the resulting growing alienation from the international community, has been reliant on Russia as its main source of military hardware and diplomatic support.

Myanmar’s dependence on Russia extends also into the anti-COVID-19 realm with Moscow being a provider of coronavirus vaccines.

There are plans in the making for the junta to import Russian gasoline and fuel oil to ease supply concerns. In exchange, Russia will find new sources of business amid Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

With Russia seeking to get as many international actors onto its West-sceptical wagon, Moscow was one of the first countries to voice support for the junta after the coup at a time when it found itself under a barrage of condemnations over its use of lethal force against opponents.

Another thing that brings Russia and Myanmar together is that the latter also felt the weight of sanctions that have been targeting the generals and the extensive business network the military operates.

The United Nations and activists have accused the Myanmar military of atrocities and crimes against humanity and have urged the international community to terminate arms sales, with Russia singled out for supplying drones, jets and air defence systems since the coup.

But Myanmar’s military follows through claiming it is fighting “terrorists”, seeking to bring back peace and re-establish democratic rule after a 2020 election that it perceives as marred by fraud.

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