Vladimir Putin meets Myanmar junta chief, hails ‘positive’ ties

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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed “positive” ties with Myanmar on Wednesday as he met with the country’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.
“Myanmar is our long-standing and reliable partner in Southeast Asia… our relations are developing in a positive way,” Putin said during the meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum.
Min Aung Hlaing’s visit comes as both governments face diplomatic isolation — Moscow for its February military intervention in pro-Western Ukraine, and Naypyidaw for a military coup last year.
As Moscow’s ties with the West unravel over Ukraine, the Kremlin is seeking to pivot the country toward the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
“I am very proud of you, because when you came to power in the country, Russia, so to say, became number one in the world,” Min Aung Hlaing told Putin, as quoted by a Kremlin statement that translated his remarks into Russian.
“We would call you not just the leader of Russia but a leader of the world because you control and organize stability around the whole world,” he said.
The two leaders “friendly and openly” discussed cooperation and “exchanged views on relations and the international situation,” the Myanmar junta said in a statement.
Since the putsch that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February last year, Myanmar has faced Western sanctions and a downgrade in relations.
Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralyzed as the military regime struggles to crush resistance.
Russia and its ally China have been accused of arming Myanmar’s junta with weapons used to attack civilians since the coup.
More than 2,200 people have been killed in the crackdown, according to a local monitor.
During a trip to Naypyidaw in early August, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov backed the junta’s efforts to “stabilize” the country and hold a national poll next year.
But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the international community to reject the junta’s “sham elections.”