Philippines' Duterte heads to Russia in blow to US
May 22 2017 01:16 PM
Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte has described Vladimir Putin as his "favourite hero".


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte flew to Russia on Monday to meet his hero, seek arms and steer his nation's foreign policy further away from longtime ally the United States.
The five-day trip will cement a dramatic improvement in relations with Russia since Duterte came to power last year and began unravelling his country's decades-long alliances with the United States, which he accuses of hypocrisy and bullying.
"Russia must cease to be at the margins of Philippine diplomacy. Overdependence on traditional partners has limited our room to manoeuvre in a very dynamic international arena," Duterte told reporters before leaving.
"This is a strategic oversight that has led to many missed opportunities for our country. I am determined to correct this."
The trip will also be personal for Duterte, who has described Russian President Vladimir Putin as his "favourite hero" and proclaimed a bond because of mutual passions such as guns and hunting. The pair are due to meet on Thursday.
Since assuming the presidency Duterte has sought to build strong alliances with China and Russia while moving away from the United States, the Philippines' former colonial ruler and most important military ally.
He has scaled down the number and scope of annual military exercises with the United States, barred Filipino forces from joint patrols in the disputed South China Sea and called for the withdrawal of US troops from the Philippines.
US military ties have been loosened even though China is expanding its presence into Philippine-claimed waters in the South China Sea.
Duterte said last week that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened to go to war with the Philippines over the territorial row.
But Duterte, a self-described socialist, has been determined to reduce the Philippines' reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russia.
"My visit underscores the independence of the Philippines' foreign policy and the firm resolve to broaden the horizons of friendship and cooperation with other nations," he said on Monday.
China and Russia have supported or at least not criticised Duterte's controversial war on drugs, which has left thousands of people dead and led to warnings by rights groups that he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

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