By Ben Rosario
President Rodrigo Duterte and his entourage are expected to receive a red carpet welcome from senior Russian Federation officials at 10:30 pm, Tuesday (3:30 am, May 23, Philippine time) at the Vnukovo-2 Airport to launch his four-day official visit in Moscow.
Duterte, who is accompanied by Filipino business leaders and several members of Congress, will hold high-level talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, both of whom extended personal invitations for the Moscow visit to the Filipino Chief Executive during separate occasions last year.
The President is acknowledged by Russian officials as the chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the talks will be substantive and are expected to include the signing of bilateral agreements relating to defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, peaceful use of nuclear energy, culture, trade and investment.
Meetings with Putin and Medvedev are expected to take place May 25 and May 26.
The four-day Moscow visit takes place as U.S. President Donald Trump is battling criticisms over controversies involving alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. polls.
President Trump has invited Duterte to visit the U.S. in November. The Philippine President has yet to decide on the invitation.
While in Moscow, Duterte will deliver a policy speech at the MGIMO University or the Moscow State Institute of International Relations which will also confer him an honorary doctorate degree tomorrow (Wednesday).
The visiting Philippine executive is expected to reiterate his administration’s commitment to pursue an independnet foreign policy that in the words of DFA Asst.Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad “is anchored foremost on national interest considerations,”