Russia’s Ambassador to the Philippines handed President Duterte a personal letter from Vladamir Putin during a meeting at the Malacañang, it has been announced.
The president met with Igor Khovaev yesterday (Monday, April 16) and discussed bilateral ties, the war on drugs and the ongoing crisis in Syria, a palace spokesman confirmed today.
Harry Roque said Khovaev handed over the letter from the Russian president as both parties “affirmed their mutual support for each other”.
Roque added that the president expressed hope that the situation in Syria would not escalate any further following airstrikes carried out by the US, Britain and France. The bombing missions were carried out in response to alleged chemical attacks ordered by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The president and the Russian envoy also discussed the drug war in the Philippines and the International Criminal Court, from which the Philippines has announced its intention to withdraw, Roque added. No further details of the meeting were revealed.
The Malacañang has previously thanked Russia for respecting the president’s decision to pull out of the ICC after the tribunal launched a preliminary investigation into deaths linked the war against drugs.
Mr Khovaev said in a television interview last month that they “fully understand” why Manila took the same route as Moscow, which withdrew its signature from the Rome Statute — the treaty that created the court — in 2016 after the tribunal came out with a report classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an ‘occupation’.
The ambassador said the ICC’s activities were “highly politicised and it’s used as an instrument to put political pressure on selective governments”.
President Duterte has long sought to shift his nation’s foreign and military alliances towards China and Russia and away from its traditional ally, the USA.
Speaking during a visit to Beijing in October 2016, he said: “America has lost. I’ve realigned myself in your [Chinese] ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”