Myanmar air force chief in Moscow for military helicopter expo - media reports

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The chief of Myanmar's air force and other military officials are visiting Moscow on Thursday to attend an exhibition displaying combat helicopters, one Russia-focused and one Myanmar-focused news outlet reported.

The Moscow Times, citing two Myanmar embassy sources in Moscow, reported that Maung Maung Kyaw, the air force chief, was in the Russian capital to attend the HeliRussia exhibition, which showcases Russian military helicopters.

Maung Maung Kyaw is under U.S. sanctions over a Feb. 1 coup that seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government.

Russia said in March it wanted to strengthen military ties with Myanmar despite the coup, and Russia's deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, met junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in the capital.

Citing unnamed sources in Myanmar, the Myanmar-focused Irrawaddy news service also reported the delegation's Moscow trip. It said it included tycoon Tay Za, whom it described as a prominent businessman and arms dealer.

Irrawaddy's sources said the delegation would discuss "over 20 megaprojects" including procurement of arms and military hardware with Russian officials.

Myanmar's military attache in Moscow and the embassy could not immediately be reached for comment and there was no immediate comment from the Russian defence ministry.

A representative for the HeliRussia exhibition said Myanmar was not on its list of ambassador-led delegations. She said she could not confirm the attendance of a military or other delegation.

The Southeast Asian country, also known as Burma, has been in crisis since the military seized power, with near daily protests and a crackdown by the junta in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Defence ties between Russia and Myanmar have grown in recent years, with Moscow providing army training and university scholarships to thousands of soldiers, as well as selling arms to a military blacklisted by several Western countries for alleged atrocities against civilians.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth in Moscow and by Thu Thu Ang in Chiang Mai; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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