Myanmar Junta Crony Uses Russia, Ukraine Military Ties to Amass Fortune

By The Irrawaddy 10 February 2022

When Min Aung Hlaing became the armed forces chief in 2011, he accelerated the modernization of the navy and air force—a move that has had the concomitant effect of rapidly enriching military cronies and businesses owned by relatives of generals.

One of the main beneficiaries is U Kyaw Min Oo, the owner of Sky Aviator Co. Still in his 40s, he has amassed a fortune over the past decade supplying spare parts for jet fighters and helicopters purchased by Myanmar’s military from Russia and Ukraine.

“He sells spare parts [to the air force] at 10 times the original prices,” said an incumbent air force officer. Military leaders have cleared him to sell the spare parts at higher prices, the officer added.

Before Min Aung Hlaing became the military chief, U Kyaw Min Oo worked for Myanmar Avia Export Co., a subsidiary of Htoo Group of Companies owned by business tycoon U Tay Za, whose connections with Myanmar’s present and past regimes are known to be deep.

U Tay Za supplied the previous military regime with aircraft parts through Myanmar Avia Export, which is the sole representative in Myanmar of Russia’s Export Military Industrial Group, known as MAPO, and of the Russian helicopter company Rostvertol.

A Myanmar military delegation led by Chief of General Staff (Army, Navy, Air Force) General Maung Maung Aye holds talks with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin in August 2021.

U Kyaw Min Oo established Sky Aviator Co. around 2014 and started supplying spare parts for Russian-made aircraft used by Myanmar’s military, in partnership with Russian national Alexander Ostrovskiy, with whom he made contact while working for U Tay Za’s company.

Ostrovskiy had worked as a middleman for U Tay Za, helping him supply Russian-made jet fighters and helicopters to Myanmar’s military.

According to military sources, under U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government and the government (later ousted) of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, many opportunities presented themselves for U Kyaw Min Oo, who is reportedly a relative of an air force officer ranking higher than major, to take the place of U Tay Za, who mostly lived in Singapore in those years.

U Kyaw Min Oo facilitated visits to Myanmar by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his deputy before and after the coup, military officers based in Naypyitaw told The Irrawaddy.

Sky Aviator, which is registered as a general trading company based in Yangon, also imported aircraft parts from Ukraine’s Motor Sich from 2018 to February 2021, according to Justice for Myanmar, a group of activists campaigning for justice and accountability for the people of Myanmar. Motor Sich is a major Ukrainian manufacturer of engines for aircraft and missiles.

In a leaked proposal submitted by Sky Aviator to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Forces (Air) in August 2019, the company offered to upgrade the Myanmar military’s Mi-24P helicopters. In the leaked document, the company described itself as the sole representative of JSC Russia Helicopter in Myanmar.

An Su-30SM fighter jet. In 2019, military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing personally inspected production of six of the jets being assembled for the Myanmar military at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant in Russia. / Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s website

In another leaked Defense Ministry document, Sky Aviator also handed over parts for T-72S tanks to Myanmar’s military, Justice for Myanmar reported.

Since the coup in February last year, Sky Aviator has also received a number of Russian arms shipments including YAK-130 support equipment from Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), refitted turbojet engines from United Engine Corporation and engine parts from Rosoboronexport.

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