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Russia Backs Myanmar Military After China Raises Concerns

Much of Myanmar has been in open revolt since troops deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's government on Feb. 1. Aung Kyaw Htet / ZUMA / TASS

Russia remains supportive of Myanmar’s military after China’s ambassador expressed concern with the crisis in its neighboring country and denied rumors of its involvement.

Ambassador Chen Hai said Beijing maintained “friendly” ties with both the Burmese army and its former ruling civilian government, noting that the current political situation was “absolutely not what China wants to see.”

Much of Myanmar has been in open revolt since troops deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's government on Feb. 1 and charged her with possession of unregistered walkie-talkies under an obscure import law. The military accused Suu Kyi’s party of widespread voter fraud during November elections.

Russian-made armored vehicles have been spotted roaming Myanmar’s streets during the coup, which the Nikkei Asia news magazine reported reflects junta chief General Ming Aung Hliang’s Russia pivot to offset Chinese influence.

One week ahead of the coup, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Myanmar to finalize a deal on the fresh supply of surface-to-air missile systems, surveillance drones and radar equipment, according to Nikkei. Russia also signed a flight safety agreement with General Ming, who has reportedly visited Russia six times in the past decade. 

Russia’s representative at the UN Human Rights Council called the coup a “purely domestic affair of the sovereign state,” the Burmese news website The Irrawaddy reported Friday without identifying the speaker. Russia’s Foreign Ministry had said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was scheduled to speak via videolink at the UNHRC session.

According to The Irrawaddy, the Russian diplomat asked the international community for “practical assistance to the new authority of Myanmar to fulfill their obligations, including in the field of human rights” instead of criticizing the regime.

Days after the coup, Myanmar became the 21st country to approve Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

Russia and China “dissociated” from the UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for the release of those detained in the coup without voting against it. Both countries also blocked a UN Security Council condemnation of the coup.

Western powers and the United Nations have repeatedly condemned the leaders of Myanmar's new military administration, which insists it took power lawfully.

China had not initially criticized the coup, which Chinese state media described as a “cabinet reshuffle.”

Includes reporting from AFP.

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