Russia hits PH papers for ‘not reporting’ on Russian vessels

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Russia hits PH papers for ‘not reporting’ on Russian vessels
Fact-checking by Rappler shows the Philippines' 3 biggest newspapers reported on the visit of two Russian ships to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev chastised Filipino journalists on Wednesday, January 4, for supposedly failing to report on the visit of two Russian vessels to the Philippines. 

Fact-checking by Rappler showed, however, that the Philippines’ 3 biggest newspapers reported about Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs and sea tanker Boris Butoma.

Rappler also published stories on these Russian vessels.

Russia sent Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma to Manila for a goodwill visit from Monday to Saturday, January 2 to 7.

Despite local media reports on the Russian goodwill visit, Khovaev complained in a news conference on Wednesday, “Today I have read all local newspapers, and I was very surprised.”

Khovaev claimed that only the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters wrote about the visit of the two Russian vessels to the Philippines.  

“No local publication, no local journalist, wrote anything about this port call by a detachment of Russian vessels. I was really surprised,” the Russian ambassador said. 

“I don’t understand why other foreign information agencies…cover these friendly visits, but local mass media keep silent. In my humble view, it looks a bit strange,” he said.

Eventually, Filipino reporters refuted Khovaev’s statements on the spot, telling him face to face that the Russian vessels have been widely reported. “Even on social media,” a reporter said.

A television journalist even handed his smartphone to Khovaev to show local reports about the goodwill visit.

Holding the journalist’s smartphone, Khovaev said he was actually referring to newspapers – the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, and the Manila Bulletin. “They only republished the articles of the Associated Press and Reuters,” the ambassador said.

Inquirer, Star, Bulletin on Russian vessels

Rappler checked the editions of the Philippines’ 3 biggest newspapers on Wednesday, and found that all 3 carried items that mentioned the Russian vessels.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer published the story, “Russia Wants Joint ‘War Games’ with PH Navy,” written by Inquirer reporter Cynthia Balana, with reports from AP and Reuters. (In journalism lingo, this means the story was written by Balana with inputs from wire agencies AP and Reuters.)

The Inquirer story said in the second paragraph that “the Admiral Tributs, an anti-submarine vessel, and a sea tanker, the Boris Butoma, arrived in Manila on Tuesday for a 4-day goodwill visit.”

The Philippine Star also published the story, “Russia Eyes Maritime Exercises with PHL vs Terrorism,’ written by Star reporter Jaime Laude, with reports from Reuters.

The Star article said in the 3rd paragraph that “Russian anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs and sea tanker Boris Butoma arrived late on Tuesday for a 4-day goodwill visit.” 

Meanwhile, the Manila Bulletin printed the photo of Russian and Philippine contingents showing Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma to the media.

Russian envoy hits AP, too

While criticizing Philippine media, Khovaev added: “Unfortunately…the coverage by the Associated Press is not really objective. It’s not really unbiased.”

He pointed out that the AP report quoted a Russian rear admiral as saying that Filipinos “can choose to cooperate with the United States of America or cooperate with Russia.”

“But it’s not true at all. It’s not true. So at least diplomatically speaking, this phrase was taken out of context. In my humble view, it’s an example of dishonest journalist,” he said.

“So I’m kindly asking you, our Filipino partners and friends, please don’t mislead the public. Please refrain from any misinterpretation,” the diplomat added. 

Khovaev said: “This visit by a detachment of Russian vessels has only one message – a message of partnership and friendship, and nothing else.

“We have nothing to hide from you. We don’t have any hidden intention. We have no hidden agenda,” he said as President Rodrigo Duterte moves closer to Russia and China, and away from its traditional partner, America. (READ: Russia warns ‘traditional’ partners: Don’t interfere) –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email