Myanmar navy personnel denied entry to Ukraine, ‘stuck’ in Kuala Lumpur airport awaiting visas

Eighteen Myanmar navy personnel were denied entry to Ukraine last week and flew to Malaysia to apply for visas from the country’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur (KL), according to activist group Justice For Myanmar (JFM).

The personnel were part of a 20-person delegation travelling to Ukraine in connection to a Myanmar navy frigate construction project involving two Ukrainian state-owned arms companies: Ukroboronservice and Zorya-Mashproyekt, JFM reported. 

According to photos provided to Myanmar Now by JFM, the military personnel were seen gathering with their luggage in what was believed to be the Kyiv airport, with some lying on the ground.

“[They] could not pass through immigration and were deported after sleeping in the [Kyiv] airport for about two days. They left on a flight to KL via Doha and have also been stuck in the KL airport, unable to pass through immigration,” the JFM source said. “Right now they are trying to get visas from the Ukrainian embassy in KL in order to return to Ukraine.”

A total of 22 people from the Myanmar delegation checked in to the Sama Sama transit hotel in the Kuala Lumpur airport on October 3 and are checking out on October 8, according to hotel staff. 

A Myanmar navy officer staying at the transit hotel confirmed to Myanmar Now that 18 personnel were denied entry at the Ukraine airport and came to Kuala Lumpur to obtain Ukrainian visas. He refused to comment further on the trip. 

Caption: A recent photo of the hull of a 135-metre frigate being built at the Myanmar Naval Shipyard in Yangon (Myanmar Defense Review / Facebook)

The two Ukrainian state-owned firms—Ukroboronservice and Zorya-Mashproyekt—are designing propulsion systems and supplying the Myanmar warships’ main turbines and reduction gears, according to JFM. 

The source from JFM added that officials from the Ukrainian companies have made several trips to Yangon and Naypyitaw since 2017, with their contribution to the frigate project valued at around US$57m and brokered by Myanmar company Trident Marine. 

Last month, JFM revealed that Trident Marine had received ship parts and technical documents from Ukroboronservice in 2019. Trident Marine routes payments to the companies through D&K Intertrade in Singapore, a company owned by Myanmar nationals, the group said.

“We appeal to the Ukrainian authorities to deny entry to these Myanmar navy personnel,” JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung said. 

“These frigates will support the military’s campaign of terror against the people. Ukraine should uphold international law and end its complicity in the military’s atrocity crimes by imposing an immediate arms embargo,” she told Myanmar Now.

It is unclear why members of Myanmar’s delegation were denied entry to the country and whether they had subsequently been granted Ukrainian visas at the time of reporting.

Myanmar Now contacted Ukroboronservice and Zorya-Mashproyekt seeking comment on the incident but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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