Myanmar’s junta leader attends military conference in Moscow

International
Sergei Shoigu, Min Aung Hlaing

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing walk past the honor guard prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — The leader of Myanmar’s military junta on Wednesday attended an international conference in Moscow, an appearance that reflected Russia’s eagerness to develop ties with the junta despite international criticism.

The military in Myanmar ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, claiming her party’s landslide victory in an election last November was due to massive voter fraud. It has not produced credible evidence to back its claim.

Myanmar’s security forces have brutally suppressed widespread popular protests against the military takeover, killing hundreds of protesters and carrying out waves of arrests.

The junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, claimed in Wednesday’s speech at the conference organized by Russia’s Defense Ministry that it was trying to consolidate a democratic system in the country that has “degraded.”

On Tuesday, Min Aung Hlaing met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who hailed the strong military cooperation between the countries.

“We pay special attention to this meeting as we see Myanmar as a time-tested strategic partner and a reliable ally in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region,” Shoigu said.

He added that “cooperation in the military and military-technical field is an important part of relations between Russia and Myanmar” and praised Min Aung Hlaing for strengthening the country’s military.

Shoigu said Russia would work to expand ties with Myanmar based on “mutual understanding, respect and trust.”

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