U.S. says it seeks ways to limit Russian military supplies to Myanmar junta

Protest marking the second anniversary of Myanmar's 2021 military coup outside Myanmar Embassy, in Bangkok
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of Myanmar's 2021 military coup, outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok, Thailand, February 1, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The United States is deeply concerned about Russia's supply of military equipment to Myanmar's junta and will continue to seek ways to limit such cooperation between the two countries, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday.

Speaking in a telephone briefing on the two-year anniversary of Myanmar's military coup, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet told reporters that Washington would keep looking for ways to increase sanctions to make it difficult for the junta "to acquire arms or to generate revenue."

He spoke shortly after Myanmar's junta extended the country's state of emergency by another six months. Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing also said multi-party elections must be held "as the people desire", but he did not provide a timeline.

Chollet reiterated the Biden administration's position that "any regime-led elections have no chance of being free or fair."

"Any election without the full participation of Myanmar's people would represent a naked attempt by the junta to cling to power," he added.

Asked about Russia's military ties to Myanmar, he said Moscow was the junta's most reliable military supplier while the junta was among Russia's diminishing "circle of friends" following its invasion of Ukraine last year.

"It's something we are deeply concerned about ... because of course Russian military capability is being used directly against the people of Myanmar," Chollet said, adding that Washington was seeking ways to restrict that relationship.

The United States and its allies imposed further sanctions on Myanmar on Tuesday with curbs on energy officials and junta members, among others.

The Southeast Asian country's top generals led a putsch in February 2021, overthrowing the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after five years of tense power-sharing.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with a resistance movement fighting the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on opponents that saw Western sanctions re-imposed.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis

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