Russian truck giant Kamaz in talks with terrorist junta to manufacture trucks in Myanmar

May 2, 2022

Kamaz General Director Sergey Kogogin visited Myanmar on April 27 and held talks with the terrorist junta to manufacture trucks in Myanmar, train personnel and establish a service network, Russian media has reported.

Kogogin was part of a delegation led by Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan. Vasily Tsyganov, the acting General Director of VTK Kamaz JSC, the company’s trade subsidiary, also attended the talks.

Deepening cooperation with Kamaz and other Russian businesses would provide the junta with arms and funds as they intensify violent attacks on the people of Myanmar.

Kamaz is Russia’s biggest truck manufacturer, producing military and civilian vehicles, including the 8x8 truck typically used to mount the Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile system.

Days before the attempted coup, the Myanmar military ordered two Pantsir-S1s during a visit of Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu. In November, Russia confirmed that delivery is expected in 2023.

In 2020, Kamaz delivered seven Kamaz-43266 flatbed military trucks to Myanmar.

The Myanmar visit comes after Kogogin was sanctioned by the UK for producing vehicles used by the Russian military.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, using Kamaz trucks, Kogogin has also been sanctioned by Australia, while Kamaz has been sanctioned by Australia and the EU.

Kogogin participated in meetings with junta head Min Aung Hlaing; the junta’s investment and foreign economic relations minister Aung Naing Oo; and gave a presentation during a “roundtable” with junta members and their “business circle”.

To develop its business with the terrorist military junta, Kamaz now plans to send specialists to Myanmar in May and to finalise an agreement in June.

Tatarstan’s Myanmar military links

The Tatarstan government is also promoting other business and arms deals with the Myanmar military, including with Kazan Helicopters, JSC Zelenodolsk Plant named after A.M. Gorky and Ker-Holding.

Kazan Helicopter Plant deputy managing director of sales Maksim Prokhorov joined the April delegation. Kazan Helicopters first delivered Mi-17s to the Myanmar military in 1995 and the company is now building three Mi-38s for the Myanmar military, while Rosoboronexport is negotiating for the delivery of a further three Mi-17V-5s. This comes as the military’s indiscriminate airstrikes intensify.

Zelenodolsk, which makes warships for the Russian Navy, discussed unspecified cooperation, while engineering firm Ker-Holding discussed participation in the Pang Pet steel plant, a Russian-backed project of the military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation. Ker Holding has been involved in the Pang Pet project since 2016, including commissioning and installing the plant’s turbines and generators. Min Aung Hlaing also expressed interest in oil refining cooperation with Tatarstan.

Rustam Minnikhanov, Tatarstan’s President, has cultivated close ties with war criminal Min Aung Hlaing and the Myanmar military since as early as 2013.

Last week, junta investment minister Aung Naing Oo noted that Minnikhanov’s “personal relationship” with Min Aung Hlaing plays an important role in developing business ties with Tatarstan.

In June 2021, following the military’s attempted coup, Min Aung Hlaing led a delegation of more than forty people to Tatarstan, meeting Rustam Minnikhanov and visiting Kamaz’ Chelny Automobile Plant, which manufactured the trucks sent to Myanmar in 2020.

In a Kamaz statement, Kogogin commented on Min Aung Hlaing’s June 2021 visit: “The representatives of the country got acquainted with the capacities of KAMAZ and highly appreciated the technical characteristics of our trucks.”

Min Aung Hlaing is quoted in Russian media praising the manufacturing capabilities of Kamaz, and arguing for cooperation.

Min Aung Hlaing also visited Kazan Helicopters and Zelenodolsk Plant during his 2021 trip.

In September 2013, during the rule of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, Minnikhanov visited Myanmar and discussed Kamaz producing trucks for use by the Myanmar military.  

At the time, the Tatarstan and Myanmar chambers of commerce signed an MoU on cooperation. Myanmar’s chamber of commerce has close links to the Myanmar military.

In November 2013, a Htoo Group of Companies delegation led by Tay Za travelled to Tatarstan to discuss business cooperation, meeting Minnikhanov and visiting Kamaz and Kazan Helicopters. During the meeting, Minnikhanov also suggested Kamaz trucks could be in demand in Myanmar for military use.

Kamaz’ German shareholders

Russian state-owned arms conglomerate Rostec is the biggest shareholder of Kamaz, owning 47.1%.

Germany’s Mercedes-Benz owns 15% of Kamaz, on behalf of its former subsidiary, Daimler Truck.

Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck have refused to comment on reports they are in talks to sell their Kamaz stake to Rostec following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Daimler also has a joint venture with Kamaz, and froze cooperation shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin has had a personal interest in Kamaz, records found in the Panama Papers leak show. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed a secret 2008 option for Putin to gain management control over Kamaz, through a proxy company owned by the classical cellist Sergey Roldugin.

The deal, which was to involve the transfer of shares from the Tatarstan government at below the market rate, was scrapped as the global financial crisis hit Russia and Kamaz reduced production. ICIJ noted that Putin has been a public champion of Kamaz.

More sanctions needed

Kamaz’ business with the Myanmar military has developed despite Daimler Truck’s major investment and business cooperation with Kamaz.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Daimler Truck had limited leverage over Kamaz as the company’s biggest foreign shareholder. After the military’s campaign of genocide against the Rohingya; military trucks were sent to Myanmar, arms deals were signed and Min Aung Hlaing visited Kamaz following his illegal coup attempt. Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Trucks should clarify what it did following the Rohingya genocide and the military’s coup attempt to exert leverage and end Kamaz’ business with the Myanmar military, in accordance with their international human rights responsibilities.

Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck's apparent lack of action to prevent Kamaz' links to grave human rights violations in Myanmar before Russia's invasion of Ukraine demonstates the danger of complacency regarding investee business with the Myanmar military.

The international community’s uncoordinated response to the Myanmar military’s illegal coup attempt is enabling the junta to seek economic, military and political support from Russia.

Without concerted international action against the Myanmar junta now, Russian corporations like Kamaz will gain a foothold in Myanmar, emboldening the junta at a time when it needs funds and arms to continue its campaign of terror against the Myanmar people.

Justice For Myanmar calls for international targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military junta and its business interests, and a global arms embargo.

Minnikhanov’s business dealings with the junta also shows the risk that sanctions on Russia will be ineffective without further international action on Myanmar. Minnikhanov has brought Kamaz and other Russian businesses to Myanmar as sanctions limit Russian access to Western and other markets.

Min Aung Hlaing is seeking benefit from recent sanctions on Russia, offering Myanmar as a base from which Tatarstan businesses can sell products across Southeast Asia.

Shamil Ageev, the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tatarstan, described Myanmar as being able to open up Russian access to markets in Southeast Asia, China and India, while Russia is under sanctions.

This also demonstrates the need for further targeted sanctions on Russia, to address both Russian aggression in Ukraine and its complicity with the Myanmar military junta. In March, Justice For Myanmar identified nineteen Russian businesses that should be sanctioned for supplying arms and equipment to the Myanmar military.

Justice For Myanmar calls for urgent sanctions against Rustam Minnikhanov, Sergey Kogogin, Shamil Ageev, Kamaz and all other entities and individuals providing the terrorist Myanmar military junta access to funds and arms.