Duterte to be honored by Moscow university

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) attends a meeting in Moscow, on October 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Duterte to be honored by Moscow university

  • Duterte is also scheduled to give a speech in Sochi City

MANILA: President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte will receive an honorary doctorate from one of Russia’s top universities, on Wednesday — the day Duterte began his five-day visit to the country.

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations University (MGIMO), which serves as a training ground for diplomats, is set to confer the honorary degree to Duterte on Saturday, when the Filipino president will also deliver a lecture at the university.

“After he gets the degree I hope I’m the first one to greet him as ‘Doctor Duterte,’” Philippine Ambassador to the Russian Federation Carlos Sorreta said, adding, “It’s a degree that’s given to heads of states and leaders.

“MGIMO is . . . the top university for training Russians in foreign affairs and international business transactions. So it’s something we are looking forward to,” he continued.

Duterte was originally scheduled to receive the same degree from MGIMO last May 24, 2017, during his first visit to Russia. But the awarding was canceled because the President's visit was cut short due to fighting in Marawi City.

The plan to confer the degree to Duterte, who is widely accused of human rights violations because of his bloody war, likewise received criticisms. Andrei Silantiev, a political scientist at MGIMO even called it a "shame" in a Facebook post on May 23, 2017.

Aside from his lecture at the university, Duterte is also scheduled to give a speech in Sochi City at the annual forum organized by the Valdai Discussion Club, a prominent Russian think tank.

“In this visit, it’s a little bit different because the president is not only meeting with President (Vladimir) Putin, but is also his guest at the Valdai forum, to give his views on the world order,” Sorreta said. 

“I think the Philippines is in a great position to speak about the Eastern perspective in terms of the world order, because … our traditions, our values, are heavily dependent on Western education but we are located in the East, our neighbors are all Eastern.”

In a statement before his departure for Moscow on Tuesday night, Duterte said the visit was a good opportunity to further strengthen ties with the Russian Federation, saying that the two countries “share key strategic interests both bilaterally and in the larger Asia-Pacific region.”

He continued: “We will identify ways of further intensifying cooperation in security and defense, combatting terrorism and violent extremism, and addressing transnational crimes.”

Duterte said he expected “key agreements” to be signed in a number of areas, including political cooperation, health, science and technology, and culture.

“I will also join President Putin and other world leaders at the Forum of the Valdai Discussion Club. We are each expected to provide our own perspective on the topic ‘The Dawn of the East and the World Political Order,’” Duterte explained.

“This will be an opportune occasion to articulate, to a key audience, our independent Philippine foreign policy — one that is based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference, the time-honored principles of international law. Apparently this most basic principle that governs the relations between nations has been forgotten by some idiots in some parts of the world,” he concluded.


Sanders blasts Russia for reportedly trying to boost his presidential campaign

Updated 22 February 2020

Sanders blasts Russia for reportedly trying to boost his presidential campaign

  • “They are trying to cause chaos. They’re trying to cause hatred in America,” the Democratic presidential wannabe said
  • US intelligence officials have said the Russian effort also continues to support Republican President Donald Trump

WASHINGTON: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday warned Russia to stay out of US elections after American officials had told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign.
“The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020. And what I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me you are not going to be interfering in American elections,” Sanders told reporters in Bakersfield, California.
Sanders, 78, a democratic socialist from Vermont, is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and is favored to win the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.
The Washington Post on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, said US officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and US lawmakers.
It was not clear what form the Russian assistance took, the paper said.
A congressional source confirmed intelligence officials have told lawmakers Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump.
The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.
Sanders, a US senator, said he was briefed about a month ago.
“We were told that Russia, maybe other countries, are going to get involved in this campaign,” he told reporters. “Look, here is the message: To Russia, stay out of American elections.”
“What they are doing, by the way, the ugly thing that they are doing — and I’ve seen some of their tweets and stuff — is they try to divide us up,” he said. “They are trying to cause chaos. They’re trying to cause hatred in America.”

Moscow denies
The Kremlin on Friday denied Russia was interfering in the US presidential campaign to boost Trump’s re-election chances, following reports that American intelligence officials warned Congress about the election threat last week.
US intelligence officials told members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in a classified briefing that Russia was again interfering in American politics ahead of November’s election, as it did in 2016, a person familiar with the discussion told Reuters on Thursday.
Since that briefing, Trump has ousted the acting intelligence chief, replacing him with a political loyalist in an abrupt move as Democrats and former US officials raised the alarm over national security concerns.
A senior administration official, however, said the nation was better positioned than in 2016 to defend against foreign attempts to influence elections.
“President Trump has made clear that any efforts or attempts by Russia, or any other nation, to influence or interfere with our elections, or undermine US democracy will not be tolerated,” the official said.
On Twitter, the president accused Democrats in Congress of launching a misinformation campaign that says Russia prefers him to any of what he called the “Do Nothing Democrat candidates.” Trump called it a “hoax.”

Russian accounts
Facebook said it has not seen any evidence of Russian assistance to Sanders’ campaign. In October, the company took down Russian-backed accounts that pretended to be from political battleground states.
Some of those accounts used Instagram to praise Sanders. Another used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and faulted Joe Biden on race issues.
Jessica Brandt of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization that monitors foreign interference in US politics, said Russian state media and official social media accounts have been working to help Sanders by amplifying conspiracy theories that his Democratic rivals, the Democratic National Committee and the “corporate media” have been “rigging the system” against him.
“We can say with certainty that this is what the Russian government is pushing,” she told Reuters. “We’ve seen for some time Russian official channels promoting division within the Democratic Party.”

Warning signs
US officials have long warned that Russia and other countries would seek to interfere in the Nov. 3 presidential election, following Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign that ended with Trump’s surprise victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
US intelligence agencies concluded that the Kremlin used disinformation operations, cyberattacks and other methods in its 2016 operation in an effort to boost Trump, an allegation that Russia denies. Trump, sensitive to doubts over the legitimacy of his win, has also questioned that finding and repeatedly criticized American intelligence agencies.
On Friday, the Kremlin said the latest allegations were false.
“These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the (US) election,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “They have nothing to do with the truth.”
Russia’s alleged interference sparked a two-year-long US investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller found no conclusive evidence of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He also pointed at 10 instances in which Trump may have attempted to obstruct his investigation, as Democrats alleged, but left any finding of obstruction to Congress.