In Russia, a Military Buildup That Can’t be Missed

MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.

Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.

The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.

told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.

Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.

Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.

Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.

news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.

forces for a possible incursion.

But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.

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Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.K. Was Locked Out of London Embassy

LONDON — Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of his own embassy on Wednesday, apparently in retaliation for criticizing the country’s military, which seized power in February and has since launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it was “seeking further information” following the episode, which drew a small crowd of protesters outside the Myanmar Embassy in London.

“I have been locked out,” the ambassador told the Reuters news agency, calling the actions of diplomatic colleagues who prevented him from entering the building as a “kind of coup in the middle of London.”

Diplomatic sources confirmed that he had been excluded from the embassy and British media reports suggested that the ambassador’s deputy, Chit Win, had taken charge of the building with the help of a military attaché.

no longer represented the country.

On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that a protest had taken place outside the Myanmar Embassy and that officers were on the scene to keep order, but said that no arrests had been made.

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Myanmar Envoy Who Critiqued Coup Is Locked Out of London Embassy

LONDON — Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of his own embassy on Wednesday, apparently in retaliation for criticizing the country’s military, which seized power in February and has since launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it was a “seeking further information” following the episode, which drew a small crowd of protesters outside the Myanmar Embassy in London.

“I have been locked out,” the ambassador told the Reuters news agency, calling the actions of diplomatic colleagues who prevented him from entering the building as a “kind of coup in the middle of London.”

Diplomatic sources confirmed that he had been excluded from the embassy and British media reports suggested that the ambassador’s deputy, Chit Win, had taken charge of the building with the help of a military attaché.

no longer represented the country.

On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that a protest had taken place outside the Myanmar Embassy and that officers were on the scene to keep order, but said that no arrests had been made.

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North Korea Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Malaysia Over U.S. Extradition

SEOUL — North Korea on Friday severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia after that country’s highest court agreed to extradite a North Korean man accused of money laundering to the United States, a major coup in Washington’s efforts to choke Pyongyang’s illicit trade.

In a ruling last week, Malaysia’s federal court approved the extradition of a North Korean citizen, Mun Chol-myong, rejecting his argument that the case against him was politically motivated and that he was caught in the cross hairs of diplomatic enmity between North Korea and Washington.

Washington has sought to bring Mr. Mun to the United States to face criminal charges that he laundered money through front companies and violated international sanctions by helping to ship prohibited luxury goods from Singapore to North Korea on behalf of the regime in Pyongyang. Mr. Mun was arrested in 2019 in Malaysia, where he had moved from Singapore in 2008.

Mr. Mun was the first North Korean extradited to the United States to face a criminal trial. His extradition is part of Washington’s efforts to crack down on what it has described as widespread sanctions-evading activities by North Korean businessmen and diplomats. Over the years, the United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea, seeking to strangle the country’s access to foreign currency, which it has used to help finance its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Two women hired by agents from Pyongyang smeared his face with the internationally banned VX nerve agent. North Korea denied involvement.

Credit…Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After the incident, the two countries expelled ambassadors from their capitals.

North Korea’s severance of ties with Malaysia will deepen its diplomatic isolation. After the North conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in 2017, in defiance of United Nations resolutions, several countries, including Mexico, Spain and Kuwait, expelled North Korean ambassadors.

Thae Yong-ho, a minister in the North Korean Embassy in London, defected to Seoul in 2016 with his wife and two sons. Jo Song-gil, a senior North Korean diplomat who disappeared from Italy in late 2018, also ended up in Seoul, according to South Korean lawmakers briefed on the matter. Ryu Kyeon-woo, a senior North Korean diplomat who fled his posting in Kuwait in 2019, has turned up in South Korea, too.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III met with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul on Thursday. Afterward, the two allies said they would coordinate their approaches toward North Korea as the Biden administration finalizes its policy review in the next few weeks. Washington said it has tried to establish a diplomatic channel since last month, but that North Korea has not responded.

Choe Son-hui, first vice foreign minister of North Korea, said on Thursday that North Korea felt no need to respond to “the U.S. delaying-time trick,” and that dialogue would only be possible after the United States ended its “hostile policy.”

During his hearing in Malaysia, Mr. Mun, who is in his 50s, denied money laundering or issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his home country. His lawyer called him “a pawn caught in the rivalry between the U.S. and North Korea.”

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After Coup in Myanmar, a Career Diplomat Takes a Stand

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent 15 years under house arrest, became foreign minister and the country’s de facto civilian leader. The military still controlled much of government, Parliament and the economy, but Myanmar was no longer isolated in tropical totalitarianism.

In 2018, Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun was dispatched to Geneva as ambassador and representative to the United Nations offices there. While the halting political transition unfolding in Myanmar had won star-struck admirers like President Obama, who visited twice, the reality of the military’s reflexive brutality intruded with the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, a campaign that intensified in 2017.

Rather than condemn the systematic executions, rapes and village burnings, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, defended the generals. There was little outcry in Myanmar over the brutal persecution of ethnic minorities. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi defended the military at The Hague, where Myanmar was accused of genocide against the Rohingya. Myanmar’s diplomats, including Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun, fell in line, earning the country international scorn.

Last October, Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun presented his credentials as Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Back home, rumors of a coup simmered before the November elections, which the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. The military cried foul, and talk of a putsch escalated.

On Feb. 1, the military, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, arrested the nation’s civilian leadership, later charging Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and the nation’s president with obscure crimes. Dozens of foreign ministry officials were detained after participating in the civil disobedience movement.

In overseas missions, envoys agonized over what to do. Daw Chaw Kalyar, now at the Myanmar Embassy in Berlin, recalled how as a high school student in 1988 she had marched in the mass protests before security forces killed hundreds or possibly thousands of people. Since the Feb. 1 coup, more than 60 people have been shot dead by the security forces.

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