Russia and Myanmar agree to bolster ties


File picture from March 26, 2021 shows Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin (left) meeting Myanmar armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw. - AFP

MOSCOW (AFP): Myanmar's junta leader and a senior Russia security official on Monday committed to improving ties between their two countries, Russia's Security Council said in a statement.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government in February.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has travelled to Moscow for a three-day international security conference kicking off Tuesday which brings together defence officials from across the globe.

Russia's Security Council said its chief Nikolai Patrushev had met with Min Aung Hlaing and discussed the "fight against terrorism, issues related to regional security" and foreign interference in Myanmar.

The officials "reaffirmed their desire to further strengthen bilateral cooperation" between Russia and Myanmar, it added.

Min Aung Hlaing also met the head of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheyev, to discuss "potential military technical cooperation" a junta spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

This is Min Aung Hlaing's second known trip abroad since he seized power.

Myanmar state television on Sunday reported that the junta chief was attending the conference in Russia, an ally and major arms supplier to the Myanmar military.

The junta's brutal crackdown on dissent has killed at least 870 civilians since the February coup, according to a local monitoring group.

Min Aung Hlaing's visit comes after the UN General Assembly took the rare step on Friday of calling on member states to "prevent the flow of arms" into Myanmar.

The resolution -- which did not go so far as to call for a global arms embargo -- also demands that the Myanmar military "immediately stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators".

It was approved by 119 countries, with 36 abstaining including China, Myanmar's main ally, and Russia. Only one country, Belarus, voted against it.

Moscow in April said it opposed sanctions against the junta in Myanmar, warning that punitive measures could spark a large-scale civil conflict in the country.

While the Kremlin said it was "concerned" by the civilian casualties in the Myanmar protests, Russia has sought to develop ties with the junta.

A Russian deputy defence minister in March joined an annual parade showcasing Myanmar's military prowess, including Russian-made jets, tanks and helicopters.

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