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Russian guided missile cruiser arrives in Manila

MANILA, Philippines – Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag arrived in Manila on Thursday, April 20, the Russian Navy's second goodwill visit to the Philippines this year. 

Varyag arrived with Pechenga, a large sea tanker, Thursday morning at Pier 15 in Manila's South Harbor. The vessels are part of the Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet. 

"I'm assuring you that we will do everything to make this port call a significant contribution to the strengthening of our friendship and cooperation between our two nations in the interest of security and stablity in the region," Captain Alexsei Ulyaneko of the Russian Navy said in a press briefing on Thursday. 

HEAVILY ARMED. Varyag is armed with 16 anti-ship missiles.

The goodwill visit comes a month before President Rodrigo Duterte's scheduled visit to Moscow in a bid to expand defense ties with new countries. He said he seeks to forge a foreign policy that is independent of the country's longtime treaty ally, the US. (READ: Duterte to fly to Russia on May 25)

Captain Leo Ramon Miado of the Philippine Navy said they look forward to training with their Russian counterparts. "This is a training opportunity for us. We can view the advanced equipment of the Russian Navy in line with our modernization effort," he said. 

In January, Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs visited Manila. Duterte even toured the warship.

Russian warships had previously docked in the Philippines, but it was the first time that the Russian Navy officers had a series of interactions with their Filipino counterparts.

A series of activities coincide with the arrival of the warships. The Russian Cultural Dancers and Music Ensemble will also perform at the Luneta Park in Manila at 5 pm on Thursday.

A shipboard tour was scheduled for Saturday, April 22, also at Pier 15.

FLAGSHIP. Varyag is the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had invited Duterte to visit Russia back in November when they were in Lima, Peru, for the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting.

Government-to-government deals, mostly on military cooperation and economic partnership, are expected to be signed during the visit. – Rappler.com