Myanmar Expands Military Cooperation With Russia, Commander-in-Chief Says

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Myanmar's Commander in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing walk past the honour guard prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2021. Picture taken June 22, 2021. Vadim Savitskiy/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

Myanmar intends to expand its military cooperation with Russia, Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the country’s military and the chairman of the State Administration Council, has said in an interview with Sputnik.

Min Aung Hlaing attended an international military conference in Moscow and met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Myanmar’s junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing that Moscow is committed to strengthening military ties with it, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

Rights activists have accused Moscow of legitimising the junta, which seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, by continuing bilateral visits and arms deals.

“We are determined to continue our efforts to strengthen bilateral ties based on the mutual understanding, respect and trust that have been established between our countries,” RIA quoted Shoigu as saying at a meeting on Tuesday.

Min Aung Hlaing was in the Russian capital to attend a security conference and had earlier met Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

“We will create a new partnership, [and] will expand it. From the outset, our [military] cooperation was designed so that it would expand over time. That is why during that meeting, we were mostly discussing expanding the existing cooperation,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

During the meeting, Shoigu noted that Myanmar is a “time-tested strategic partner and reliable ally in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region”, while Hlaing said, “our military has become one of the strongest in the region thanks to Russia.”

“During the meeting, we mostly discussed the issues of air defense, there is a bilateral interest in expanding our cooperation in this area,” Min Aung Hlaing said, adding that due to the major powers’ interest in Myanmar, the country needs to enhance its air defense capabilities.

This comes after the head of the AK Bars shipbuilder told Sputnik that one of the ASEAN members — among which there is Myanmar — has expressed interest in buying two Project 22160 patrol ships from Russia and building two more at its own shipyards. This potential customer wants the Russian company to set up a production process and train workers.

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The military in Myanmar seized control of the nation in a coup d’état on February 1, 2021. There have been mass protests since the coup was staged. On the other hand, the military authorities assert that it was justified and vow to transfer power after a new election, the date for, which, however, is yet to be given.

With Myanmar being one of the traditional export markets for the Russian weaponry, rising tensions there provide Moscow with a good chance to increase military sales, Alexey Kirichenko, Associate Professor at the Institute of Asian and African Countries at the Moscow State University, said.

“This makes it possible for Russia to conclude lucrative contracts… The situation in the country is very difficult, and the Burmese military needs to build up their military potential,” he said.

On Tuesday, Myanmar security forces backed by armoured vehicles clashed with a newly formed guerrilla group in the second biggest city Mandalay, resulting in at least two casualties.

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attends the IX Moscow conference on international security in Moscow, Russia June 23, 2021.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Myanmar’s Commander in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing walk past the honour guard prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2021. Picture taken June 22, 2021. Vadim Savitskiy/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

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