Philippines receives Russian Kalashnikovs, military hardware

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 25.10.2017 00:00
Updated 25.10.2017 10:35

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accepted a large donation of military equipment from Russia on Wednesday, including 5,000 AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifles and 20 trucks, the country's defense department has confirmed.

The items were presented to Duterte aboard the Russian anti-submarine ship, Admiral Panteleyev, currently docked in Manila port. Duterte was also shown the ship's firing capabilities as he toured the ship

As part of the donation, Russia also handed over one million cartridges with steel core bullets and 5,000 units of steel helmets, authorities said in the statement.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu witnessed the formal handover of the items.

Shoigu hailed the closer relations as he signed two agreements with his Filipino counterpart Lorenzana.

"The Philippines is considered to be (a) key and prospective partner in Southeast Asia and Asian-Pacific rim in general," the Russian defense ministry quoted him as saying in a statement, adding it was the first time a defense minister from Moscow had visited the Philippines.

For decades the Southeast Asian nation has been one of Washington's most staunch regional military allies.

But the firebrand Duterte, 72, has loosened that 70-year alliance.

Infuriated by American criticism of a controversial drug war which has claimed thousands of lives, Duterte has instead reached out to Russia and China.

The poorly equipped Philippine army needs allies.

The military on Monday finally declared an end to a five-month battle in the southern city of Marawi where troops struggled to flush out militants loyal to the Daesh terror group in the nation's longest urban warfare.

Australian and U.S. military helped provide crucial reconnaissance and targeting during that fight.

But Duterte has made it clear he favors being less dependent on the U.S.

During a visit to Beijing last year he said he had "realigned" himself towards Beijing and Moscow.

"There are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia," he added.

Shoigu and Lorenzana on Tuesday signed an agreement at the sidelines of a security forum north of Manila that covered defense cooperation in weapons research and exchange of experts, according to statements from their ministries.

The Philippines also signed a contract to purchase rocket propelled grenade launchers, the Russian ministry said without stating how many weapons would be acquired or how much the deal was worth.

China has also donated thousands of assault and sniper rifles to the Philippines in a similar gesture of friendship.

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