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Putin meets with visiting Philippine leader

May 24, 0:15 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Philippine leader had to curtail his visit to Russia over the situation in the southern province of Mindanao, where a state of martial law was imposed earlier on Tuesday

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte

©  EPA/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

MOSCOW, May 23. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun talks with visiting President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte. The talks are being held in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences to his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte over the death of people in a terrorist attack in Mindanao Province.

He voiced he deep convictions the terrorists would be defeated.

"I’d like to express condolences over the death of people in your country as a result of a terrorist attack," Putin said. "My colleagues and I have met with full understanding the fact you need to return home urgently."

"I’d also like to hope the conflict will be ended as early as possible and the losses will be minimal," he said.

Putin mentioned his previous meetings with Duterte and the 40th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and the Philippines that was marked in 2016. "It’s true our bilateral trade turnover isn’t big enough for the time being but still it began to restore at the beginning of the year and jumped by as much as 25% at a time," Putin said.

He believes that Russia and the Philippines "have many interesting and promising areas for cooperation, including the power engineering industry and transport infrastructure. "Quite naturally, there are opportunities for cooperation in the field of defense-related technologies."

Putin said he, too, had to make changes in his work schedule in order to hold talks with Duterte in Moscow.

"I worked outside of Moscow in one of the Russian regions today (in the southern Krasnodar territory - TASS) but naturally I could miss a chance to meet with you thanks to your arrival here and to thank you for accepting an invitation to visit Russia," he said. "I hope we’ll use this rather small amount of time before your departure to talks about bilateral relations and about the situation in your region."

In spite of the reduction of Duterte’s stay in Russia, the two countries will sign a package of documents on Wednesday.

"You and I are fully aware of how much work our staffs and colleagues did to draft a whole package of documents," Putin said. "Your ministers will stay back here for tomorrow and the package, which aims to boost our bilateral relations, will be signed."

The talks between Putin and Duterte began in the Kremlin shortly before midnight on Tuesday. Putin came to the Kremlin right from the airport after return from the Krasnodar territory.

In a departure from the rules of the protocol, which require that the host begin the conversation, Duterte was the first to speak. He spoke English and offered apologies for the need to cut short his stay in Moscow and to return home because of combat actions against the Islamic State units in Mindanao Province.

He said an IS unit had seized Mindanao and combat clashes between the Filipino Armed Forces and IS continued, adding that people had died in his homeland.

Duterte said he hoped for Russia’s assistance in providing top-notch weaponry to his country for struggle with terrorism. He assured Putin that Russia was a reliable partner and thanked for the invitation to visit the Russian Federation, a country that the Filipinos viewed as a close friend.

Putin and Duterte spoke in the presence of the media for about ten minutes. After that their talks continued behind closed doors.

The Russian delegation includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin. The Philippine delegation includes Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Chramm Cayetano, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go.

The Philippines’ president arrived in Moscow on Monday. Before leaving for Russia, he told journalists his Moscow visit will center round issues of security and defense, as well as balance in trade relations between the two countries and possible agreements in the agricultural sector.

The Philippine leader had to curtail his visit to Russia over the situation in the southern province of Mindanao, where a state of martial law was imposed earlier on Tuesday. The province is a zone of armed confrontation between government troops and militants of a group linked with the terrorist organization Islamic States. Law enforcers have blocked 15 militants of the Maute group in an apartment in the city of Marawi, Mindanao. According to security services, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group, Isnilon Hapilon, is among those blocked in the apartment. Both groups have sworn allegiance to Islamic State.

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