Sanctioned Russian company looks to produce military trucks in Myanmar, advocacy group says 

Russia’s biggest truck manufacturer met with junta leadership last week to discuss the production of its vehicles in Myanmar, a move that could “deepen” the country’s relationship with the coup regime, according to advocacy group Justice for Myanmar (JFM). 

A delegation headed by Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, and including Sergey Kogogin—the general director for Kamaz, a civilian and military truck company—met with Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and junta investment minister Aung Naing Oo on April 27. Members of multiple Russian companies who have previously engaged with the Myanmar military were also present, JFM said in a report published on Monday.

A manufacturing agreement between the parties is expected next month. 

Russian state-owned arms company Rostec is the majority shareholder in Kamaz, whose trucks were used in the country’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Through its parent company Daimler Truck, the German Mercedes-Benz also owns some 15 percent of Kamaz’s shares.

Just days before Kogogin’s Myanmar trip, the UK introduced sanctions against him for his corporation’s role in supplying vehicles to the Russian military. He has similarly been targeted by the EU and Australia, the latter of which has not yet introduced sanctions against the Myanmar junta, JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung pointed out. 

“While it is positive that Australia has sanctioned Kamaz and Sergey Kogogin, they have not imposed any sanctions in response to the military’s illegal coup attempt,” she is quoted as saying. 

She described the international response to the February 2021 coup as “weak and uncoordinated.” 

Without similar action against Myanmar’s junta, sanctions on Russia could be rendered “ineffective,” JFM warned. 

“Minnikhanov has brought Kamaz and other Russian businesses to Myanmar as sanctions limit Russian access to Western and other markets,” the advocacy group stated.

The resulting relationship will serve to “embolden” Min Aung Hlaing’s armed forces, spokesperson Yadanar Maung said. 

“Increased access to military vehicles and truck manufacturing capabilities will aid the Myanmar military’s campaign of terror, as it commits mass killings, torture, rape, forced displacement and the destruction of whole villages,” she added. 

More than 10,000 people have been arrested since the coup, and more than 1,800 killed, according to estimates by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been collecting data on junta rights abuses. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher. 

In Monday’s report, JFM noted that one of Kamaz’s signature trucks is a vehicle on which a surface-to-air missile launcher known as the Pantsir-S1 can be affixed. In January 2021, just one month before the coup, the Myanmar army ordered two Pantsir-S1s during an official Russian visit to the country. They are expected to arrive next year. 

Tatarstan president Minnikhanov’s dealings with coup leader Min Aung Hlaing date back to 2013, when he encouraged the then-military government to purchase trucks from Kamaz, JFM said. 

Min Aung Hlaing also led a junta delegation on a visit to Tatarstan last June, where he met with Minnikhanov. 

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