Myanmar junta reiterates support for Putin’s war on Ukraine

Myanmar’s military junta expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin again on Sunday, blaming his invasion of Ukraine on that country’s leader and its people.

In a commentary published in its Burmese-language mouthpiece Myanma Alin, the regime also accused the US and its NATO allies of plotting to pit Russia and Ukraine against each other.

Titled “Lessons from Ukraine for those who haven’t learned from history,” the two-page commentary was written by a writer using the pseudonym “Myint Myat”.

Calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a puppet of the West, the writer heaps praise on Putin as a leader of vision who had the foresight to quietly build up his country’s military and economic strength.

By contrast, Zelenskyy is “incapable and lacks rationalism”—failings that have resulted in the destruction and casualties that his country must now suffer, the writer argues.

“It is not wrong to say that Ukrainian people are also responsible for what is happening now because they themselves chose the wrong leader,” he adds.

The writer also links the situation in the Ukraine to that in Myanmar, where ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is routinely portrayed in state media as a pawn of foreign powers.

“Politicians and individuals who think they are big just because they can bluff people on human rights and democracy should understand by now that the security of our own people, the power of our country, and our own national interests are more important than human rights and democracy,” he writes.

The commentary comes just two days after junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun defended Putin’s actions in an interview with the Burmese-language service of Voice of America (VOA).

“No. 1 is that Russia has worked to consolidate its sovereignty. I think this is the right thing to do. No. 2 is to show the world that Russia is a world power,” he was quoted saying.

It comes as no real surprise that the junta has sided with Putin in his aggression against Ukraine, which has been widely condemned by much of the rest of the world.

More than 7,000 Myanmar military officers have received army training and university scholarships in Russia, which has also become a major provider of military hardware for a regime facing an arms embargo from the West.

There is also a natural affinity between the two authoritarian regimes, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews noted in a recent tweet.

“Birds of a feather really do fly together. The world must stand with the people of Ukraine and the people of Myanmar with words and action,” he wrote on Twitter.

This connection has been especially pronounced since last year, when the military overthrew Suu Kyi’s popular National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

A week before the February 1 coup, Russian Defence Minister Gen Sergey Shoigu was in Naypyitaw to sign a contract for the purchase of Russian Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems, Orlan-10E reconnaissance drones, and radar facilities. Less than a month later, the military imported $14.7 million worth of radar equipment, the Moscow Times reported in April.

This was followed in late March by a visit to Naypyitaw by Col Gen Alexander Vasilyevich Fomin, Russia’s deputy defence minister, to attend a ceremony marking Armed Forces Day.

On June 20, just days after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding an end to the military’s violence against civilians and calling for a halt of weapons exports to Myanmar, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing left for a week-long visit to Russia. It was his second trip abroad since seizing power, and only the seventh of his military career.

It also came a week after a 20-member Russian delegation made a secret visit to Myanmar. The purpose of the visit was unclear, but it appeared to be related to naval affairs, as it was led by the deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Vice-Admiral Vladimir Lvovich Kasatonov. The visit was not reported by state media in either country.

Since the coup, top military generals, including Gen Soe Win, the deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and then-air force chief General Maung Maung Kyaw, who has since been removed from the post, have also visited Russia.

Journalist Bertil Lintner, a long-time observer of Myanmar affairs, remarked in July of last year that Russia has embraced the Myanmar military not only because it is a big buyer of Russian military hardware, but also because it wants to set an example in Myanmar as Russia strives to disrupt Western efforts to promote democracy in Asia and elsewhere.

Myanmar news outlet The Irrawaddy reported on Monday that the military council held an emergency meeting two days ago to discuss the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Citing an anonymous source, the report said that members of the council speculated about the possibility of China carrying out a similar invasion of Myanmar if its investments and infrastructure in the country continue to come under attack from resistance forces. They concluded that the military should deploy more troops along Chinese gas pipelines and at other sites that have already experienced attacks, the report said.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s underground National Unity Government, formed in the wake of last year’s coup, denounced the Russian attacks as “unprovoked acts of war” and said it is “not a good example in the 21st century” in a statement on Friday.

It called on Russia to respect the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Ukraine and said that the attacks are “a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and international law.”

Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters also expressed solidarity with Ukraine’s people, despite the fact that the country has also supplied the Myanmar junta with arms in the past.

“We are inspired by Ukraine’s war in defence of democracy,” said Raymond, a member of the Democracy Movement Strike Committee in Dawei, the capital of Tanintharyi Region, in a recorded speech on Sunday.

Like the people of Ukraine, Myanmar’s people will continue to fight for the country’s freedom from the military junta, he said, adding that Ukraine’s fight against “fascism” needs support from people around the world.

“If Putin wins in Ukraine, he will give more help to the military coup here in Myanmar and to the enemies of democracy everywhere,” he said.

According to activist group Justice For Myanmar, Russia, which continues to arm the Myanmar military, is now using its arms against the people of Ukraine in an illegal invasion.

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