Russia sends two warships to Manila for drills with Philippines

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 3, 2017 at 1:23 PM
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MANILA, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Russia sent two warships to the Philippines to participate in naval drills as President Rodrigo Duterte's relations with the U.S. becomes increasingly strained.

The Admiral Tributs, an anti-submarine destroyer, and sea tanker Boris Butoma arrived in Manila on Tuesday for a four-day goodwill visit to show off the ships' anti-terrorism capabilities and conduct talks, Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the flotilla of the Russia's Pacific Fleet, said at a news conference.

"We did not have problems dealing with other countries or their vessels like that of the United States or China," Mikhailov said. "We operated on a high level of friendly cooperation."

He said "the biggest problem now in the world is terrorism and piracy" and the exercises "will show you what we can do and we will see what you can do."

Mikhailov said Russia is willing to train the Philippines military how to stop Islamist militants from abducting tugboat crews.

It's the first official contact between naval units from the Philippines and Russia.

The United States and the Philippines annually conduct naval exercises but Duterte has instructed the defense ministry to "reformat" drills with the U.S. Navy. As the two counties participated in drills in October, Duterte said President Barack Obama can "go to hell."

Obama has been heavily critical of Duterte over his brutal war on drugs.

Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the APEC economic summit in November. Duterte also visited China in October.

In December, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana met in Moscow with Alexander Fomin, director of the Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation, to explore possible military cooperation between the two nations.

Earlier last year, Lorenzana said Russia had offered to sell a submarine and drones to the Philippines.

The Admiral Tributs and Boris Botuma have been conducting naval drills in Indonesia and India since November.

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