Moscow seeks naval drills as Russian
warships visit Manila
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[January 03, 2017]
MANILA (Reuters) - Russia wants to
hold maritime drills with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and
piracy, sending two warships to Manila for the first official
navy-to-navy contact, as President Rodrigo Duterte pivots to United
States' traditional rivals.
Admiral Tributs, an anti-submarine vessel, and a sea tanker Boris
Butoma, arrived late on Tuesday for a four-day goodwill visit, with its
crew expected to demonstrate anti-terrorism capability and hold talks,
said Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, head of the Flotilla of the Russian
Navy Pacific Fleet.
"Our governments will maybe discuss in some period of time the
possibilities of our maritime exercises," Mikhailov told a news
conference, adding Russia has been holding drills with the Indonesian
"The biggest problem now in the world is terrorism and piracy, and all
our exercises we have, for example, with you we will have to fight these
problems and we will show you what we can do and we will see what you
can do and show us," he added as the Russian navy showcased the
A spokesman for the Philippine Navy told reporters this is the first
official interaction with the Russian navy, an arch rival of its former
colonial master and closest ally in the region, the United States.
Washington and the Philippines have been holding naval exercises
annually but Duterte has instructed the defense ministry to "reformat"
drills with Washington, moving away from the South China Sea to repair
relations with China.
Mikhailov said they were willing to help train Philippine counterparts
to fight piracy and terrorism and they hope to foster stronger security
in the region.
The Philippines has been struggling to prevent Islamist militants from
abducting crew of slow-moving tugboat and foreigners sailing on yachts
in the southern maritime borders with Indonesia and Malaysia.
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Russia's President Vladimir Putin makes his annual New Year address
to the nation in Moscow, Russia, December 31, 2016. Sputnik/Mikhail
Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS
The Abu Sayyaf, a small but violent group which has had links to al
Qaeda and has pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants, is
holding a German tourist and more than 10 Malaysian and Indonesian
crewmen. A Dutch and a Japanese are also being held captive.
Last month, Duterte sent his foreign and defense ministers to Moscow
to explore arms deal after a U.S. senator said he will block the
sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines due to concerns
with the rising death toll in a war on drugs.
More than 6,000 have been killed in the drug crackdown since Duterte
took office on June 30, roughly a third in operations when suspected
drug peddlers and users resisted arrests. The rest are classified as
under investigation, many believed to be the work of vigilantes.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Michael Perry)
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