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YANGON: Russia and China are frustrating the international response to the Myanmar crisis, a top European Union diplomat said Sunday, as the death toll from a military crackdown climbed past 700.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military removed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power on February 1.

International efforts to stem the violence have so far failed to yield results, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying Sunday it was “no surprise” that Russia and China were blocking efforts at the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo.

“Geopolitical competition in Myanmar will make it very difficult to find common ground, as we have witnessed again and again... but we have a duty to try,” he wrote in a blog post.

Europe had become a major export market for Myanmar’s garment industry in recent years, he said, suggesting the EU could offer to increase economic ties and investments if the country returns to a path of democracy.

“The Myanmar military is used to international isolation and has a decade-long record of ignoring the needs and the will of the country’s citizens,” he said.

Borrell’s comments follow days of intense violence in Myanmar, with deadly clashes across the country leaving scores dead.

The weekend saw a steady stream of mourners turn out to pay tribute to loved ones gunned down in the southern city of Bago, where security forces killed at least 82 anti-coup protesters in a brutal crackdown, according to a local monitoring group.

The true number killed may never be known — there are reports security forces took away some bodies.

The United Nations office in Myanmar tweeted late Saturday that medical treatment had been denied to many of the injured at Bago.

Overall, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has verified 701 civilian deaths since the coup. The junta claims a far lower number have been killed.

Despite the bloodshed, protesters continued to rally across the country Sunday, both on foot and motorbikes.

University students and their professors marched through Mandalay and the city of Meiktila on Sunday morning, according to local media. Some carried stems of Eugenia flowers — a symbol of victory.

In Yangon, protesters carried a banner that read: “We will get victory, we will win.”

Demonstrators there, as well as in the city of Monywa, took to writing political messages on leaves including “we must win” and calling for UN intervention to prevent further bloodshed.

After sunset protesters lit up their neighbourhoods with flashlights and sang songs.

Meanwhile, Myawaddy Bank’s biggest branch in Mandalay was struck by a bomb blast on Sunday morning and a security guard was injured in the explosion, according to local media.

The bank is one of scores of military-controlled businesses that have faced boycott pressure since the coup, with many customers demanding to withdraw their savings.

Meanwhile, Sunday saw intense fighting in Momauk township in the northern Kachin state between the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic armed group, and the Myanmar military.

“They tried to get into our area, but our troops tried to block them on the road,” KIA spokesman Colonel Naw Bu told AFP, adding clashes had broken out from 8pm the previous night and that the Myanmar army had deployed airstrikes against them.

It was one of a number of deadly armed clashes over the weekend, following Saturday’s unrest in the northwestern town of Tamu, near the Indian border, where protesters fought back when soldiers tried to tear down makeshift barricades erected to block security forces.

Two civilians were killed when soldiers started randomly shooting, said a local, with protesters retaliating by throwing a bomb that left over a dozen soldiers dead.

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