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Duterte off to Russia next week on Putin’s invitation

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President Rodrigo Duterte will finally have a one-on-one meeting with his “idol,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he flies to Moscow next week for an official visit.

Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of European Affairs, said Duterte’s will be in Russia from May 23 to 26 on Putin’s invitation.

“It will be the first visit of the President to Russia and we believe it will mark a new chapter in Philippine – Russia relations. We also see this visit as an indication of our strong common desire to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations,” she said at a press briefing in Malacañang Friday (May 19).

Duterte will hold a bilateral meeting with Putin on May 25 and another similar event scheduled with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The President and Putin had met at the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru last November. They were also seated beside each other during the gala dinner of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China earlier this month.

While in Russia, Duterte and Putin will witness the signing of several agreements, including those on defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, extradition, and mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.

He is also scheduled to speak at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

“In that event, we expect the President to articulate his administration’s commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy that is anchored foremost on national interest considerations,” Natividad said.

A meeting with the Filipino community in Russia has also been penciled into the President’s schedule, she added.

Duterte will also be traveling to St. Petersburg to visit a military shipyard and attend a business forum