The dawn invasion of troops and tanks accompanied by airstrikes on Ukrainian cities has sparked outrage across the world, with the United States and its allies responding with a barrage of sanctions.
But junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said Moscow’s military had “carried out what is justified for the sustainability of their country’s sovereignty”.
“Russia shows its position to the world as a world power,” he added in the statement, which was also released in Russian.
Moscow is a major ally and arms supplier to Myanmar’s generals and has repeatedly shielded the isolated country at the United Nations.
Last year junta chief Min Aung Hlaing met the head of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport in Moscow to discuss “potential military technical cooperation”.
He later told Moscow’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that Myanmar’s army had “become one of the strongest in the region” thanks to his country’s help, according to Russian news agency TASS.
More than 1,500 civilians have been killed since the junta took power in a coup last year, according to a local monitoring group, as it wages a bloody crackdown on dissent.
Earlier this week a UN expert on Myanmar said Russia - along with other major ally China - was continuing to supply the military with weapons, including fighter jets and armoured vehicles.
EU wants to cut ‘all links’ between Russia and global financial system
Meanwhile, the European Union wants to cut all links between Russia and the global financial system, France’s finance minister said today, adding that removing Moscow from the SWIFT interbank system remained a “last resort”.
Speaking hours after European national leaders agreed further sanctions on Russia over its attack on Ukraine, Bruno Le Maire said the EU “wants to cut all the links between Russia and the global financial system”.
“We want to isolate Russia financially... We want to dry up the financing,” he added as European finance ministers met in Paris to discuss the economic measures.
Both Le Maire and his German counterpart Christian Lindner said that removing Russia from the Belgium-based SWIFT system remained “on the table”.
“This is the very last resort, SWIFT, but this is one of the options that remains on the table,” the French minister said.
But Lindner insisted that “we already have a complete blockade of Russian banks, which means business dealings with Russia are as good as stopped.”
Reacting yesterday to sanctions decided by the EU, Britain, the United States and other Western nations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “the pressure on Russia must increase” from what has already been announced.
“Not all possibilities for sanctions have been exhausted yet,” he added.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had been more explicit yesterday, writing on Twitter that “who now doubts whether Russia should be banned from SWIFT has to understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children will be on their hands too.”
SWIFT’s messaging system allows banks to communicate rapidly and securely about transactions, and cutting Russia off would cripple its ability to trade with most of the world.
Iran has been disconnected from the system in the past over its nuclear programme, while Moscow has been developing domestic financial infrastructure to counter just such a threat, including the SPFS system for bank transfers and the Mir card payments system.
Cutting off Russia could complicate remaining trade with Europe, including natural gas imports vital to the continent’s energy supply as well as oil shipments.
While emphasising that Europe must be ready to make hard choices to confront Russia, Le Maire said yesterday that Paris would protect French households from any resulting increase in energy prices.
And Lindner spelled out that “in one-off cases payments (to Russia) remain possible, for example to pay for gas deliveries”.
Berlin this week said it would halt certification of a new pipeline bringing gas from Russia known as Nord Stream 2, but an existing direct link remains in operation.
Lindner added that “further steps are possible but their consequences must be weighed, the idea is to inflict consequences on the Russian economy” rather than cause harm to Europe.
Paris to host UEFA Champions League final stripped from Saint Petersburg
Elsewhere, Paris will host this season’s Champions League final after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the match due to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, UEFA announced today.
The showpiece occasion of the European club season will be played at the Stade de France on Saturday, May 28, European football’s governing body said after holding an emergency meeting in response to the crisis.
“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” a statement said.
“Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.”
The final was supposed to be played at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, which already hosted several matches at last year’s European Championship and at the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.
UEFA made no reference to its relationship with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant that is a key sponsor of European football’s governing body.
However, UEFA did announce that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in international competitions must play home matches at neutral venues “until further notice”.
FIFA may now move to force Russia to play their World Cup qualifying play-off against Poland on March 24 on neutral ground.
Spartak Moscow, in the Europa League, are the only club from either Russia or Ukraine still involved in European competition this season.