Min Aung Hlaing is visiting Russia to strengthen defence and economic ties with the country amid growing international pressure to hold Myanmar’s coup regime accountable for the perpetration of ongoing rights abuses.
The military chief, who led a coup in early 2021, left for Moscow on Sunday in a previously unannounced trip described by the Russian embassy in Myanmar as “private,” and expected to last through this week.
Military-controlled media did not report on the visit until Tuesday.
The delegation accompanying Min Aung Hlaing included junta joint secretary Lt-Gen Ye Win Oo and member Mahn Nyein Maung, as well as air force chief Gen Tun Aung, adjutant-general Lt-Gen Myo Zaw Thein and military attaché Brig-Gen Moe Kyaw. Also present were representatives from the ministries of science and technology and transport and communication.
According to official press statements, on Monday, the coup leader met with Alexey Likhachev—the director general of the state-owned Rosatom corporation—and discussed atomic energy cooperation.
Rosatom’s communications department in Singapore told Myanmar Now that the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that day concerning “cooperation in training and skills development in the field of nuclear energy and shaping positive public opinion on nuclear energy in Myanmar.”
The company described the move as “lay[ing] a solid foundation for the development of further cooperation on practical projects.”
Junta mouthpieces reported that Min Aung Hlaing also met with company representatives from Roscosmos State Space Corporation and arms dealer Rosoboronexport later on Monday. No further details of those meetings were disclosed in the report.
They also published photos of the regime delegation attending a ceremony unveiling a replica of the Shwezigon Pagoda in Kaluga, southwest of Moscow. Attending the event alongside the junta representatives was military-allied monk Sitagu Sayadaw.
Min Aung Hlaing’s trip to Russia followed a vow by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to increase international pressure on Myanmar’s coup regime during his trip to Thailand over the weekend. Blinken called on the regional bloc ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to “hold the regime accountable” for the perpetration of intensifying violence and repression in the country.
The secretary of state also urged China to do the same, according to media reports.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar earlier this month for a meeting of the Chinese-led Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group which includes Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It was the first visit by a top Chinese diplomat to the country since last year’s coup. According to The Irrawaddy, the foreign minister did not pay a courtesy visit to the military chief. He last visited Myanmar to meet State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in January last year, just weeks before the military deposed her elected administration.
While Myanmar’s military chief has been in Russia, resistance forces reported fierce clashes with junta troops in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township.
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A previous raid on Mone Hla, the village in Khin-U Township where the Catholic Archbishop of Yangon was born, reportedly targeted a local church