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Russian navy visits Philippines as Duterte tightens ties with US foes

April 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)
MANILA —  Russian  navy vessels arrived in the  Philippines on Thursday for joint exercises as part of a drive for new security  ties under President Rodrigo  Duterte's revamped foreign policy of courting the traditional  foes of Manila's top ally, Washington.

The guided-missile cruiser Varyag, accompanied by the fuel tanker ship, Pechenge, are on a four-day goodwill visit to the  Philippines, the second port call by  Russian warships in three months.

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Russian Navy Commanding Officer Captain Alexsei Ulyanenko, of the guided missile cruiser Varyag, answers questions during a news briefing upon their arrival at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila, April 20, 2017 for a goodwill visit to the Philippines.
Photo Credit: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

The move is part of what  Duterte describes as a pursuit of a constitutionally mandated "independent foreign policy." He has made no secret of his grudge against the United States and has made befriending R ussia and China the priority of his diversification drive.

Captain Lued Lincuna, director of the Philippine  navy's public affairs, said the  Philippines hoped to learn from the  Russians during training activi ties and a demonstration of advanced equipment and weapons systems.

The schedule includes training and sports activi ties with the flagship vessel of the  RussianPacific fleet, pl us a  Russian concert in a park.

Russian commander Captain Alexsei Ulyanenko said the port call would make a "significant contribution" to strengthening relations and maintaining stability in the region.

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Russian Navy Commanding Officer Captain Alexsei Ulyanenko, of the guided missile cruiser Varyag, answers questions during a news briefing upon their arrival at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila, April 20, 2017 for a goodwill visit to the Philippines.
Photo Credit: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Moscow wants to help Manila combat extremism and piracy, stepping up cooperation and training in areas where the  Philippines has traditionally worked closely with its former colonial master the United States.

The relationship is expected to develop further next month when  Duterte and  Russiancounterpart Vladimir Putin witness the signing of defense agreements in Moscow.

When  Duterte met Putin for the first time last year, the Philippine leader spoke at length about what he called U.S. "hypocrisy".

Duterte has instructed his defense minister to look into how the  Philippines could acquire modern military equipment from R ussia, like drones, night-vision gear, sniper rifles, and even helicopters.

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