Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.” (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

  • Russia seeks ‘equal partnership’ after Duterte scraps US troops deal

MANILA: Russia has ruled out the possibility of a military alliance with the Philippines despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end a major defense pact with the US.

Instead, Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said on Monday that Moscow’s aim was to build a “robust, equal partnership” with Manila.

“The goal of our common work here is not trying to contain someone or to create some sort of alliance,” he told senior Philippine defense officials and diplomats at a reception for Russian Armed Forces Day.

Early in February, the Duterte administration announced it would end a visiting forces agreement signed with Washington in 1998 that sets the terms for joint exercises with US troops in the Philippines.

According to Khovaev, Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.”

“The Russian Federation proceeds from the premise that security has to be indivisible. This is why we are not in the habit of entering into alliances,” he said.

“Equal partnerships” are necessary for stability and prosperity in the region, he added.

Asked if this ruled out a Russia-Philippines alliance similar to that between Manila and Washington, Khovaev said: “Yes. Our aim is to build a strong, robust partnership, not a military alliance. We have no military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told Arab News.

He also reiterated the importance of military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines, which was highlighted by President Vladimir Putin and Duterte during their meetings in Moscow in May 2017 and in Sochi in October 2019.

The two nations have organized joint military exercises, and the exchange of visits by Russian and Philippine navy ships in Manila and Vladivostok.

“But to tell you the truth, the full potential of our cooperation has yet to be explored,” Khovaev said. “It is indispensable because we have common threats and challenges, including terrorism, international drug trafficking, piracy and other kinds of transnational crime that we need to overcome together.”
 


UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

Updated 08 April 2020

UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

  • Britain’s leader was in "good spirits,” his spokesman said on Wednesday
  • The UK was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections

LONDON: Britain’s government sought Wednesday to keep a grip on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a third day in the intensive care unit of a London hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab chaired a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 crisis committee while the number of virus-related deaths reported in the UK approached the levels seen in the worst-hit European nations, Italy and Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the British leader was in "good spirits".
"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas' hospital. He is in good spirits," the spokesman told reporters.
The country’s confirmed death toll reached 6,159 as of Tuesday, an increase of 786 from 24 hours earlier. That was the biggest daily leap to date, although the deaths reported Tuesday occurred over several days.
The virus has hit people from all walks of life — including Johnson, the first world leader known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year-old prime minister was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he tested positive for the virus.
He was moved to the ICU on Monday night after his condition deteriorated. 
Johnson’s illness has unleashed a wave of sympathy for the prime minister, including from his political opponents. It has also heightened public unease about the government’s response to the outbreak, which faced criticism even with the energetic Johnson at the helm.
Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically the number of individuals tested for the virus.
Britain has no official post of deputy or acting prime minister, but Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to temporarily take over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic.
But Raab’s authority is limited. He can’t fire Cabinet ministers or senior officials, and he won’t hold the prime minister’s weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In the British political system, the prime minister’s power lies less in the role’s specific responsibilities — which are relatively few — than in the leader’s political capital and authority as “first among equals” in the Cabinet.
That’s especially true in Johnson’s government, which is made up of relatively inexperienced ministers appointed by a prime minister with a big personality and a hefty personal mandate from a resounding election victory in December.
In Johnson’s absence, it’s unclear who would decide whether to ease nationwide lockdown measures the British government imposed on March 23 in response the worldwide pandemic. The initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.
“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”
Meanwhile, officials are watching anxiously to see whether Britain’s hospitals can cope when the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaches its peak. Before the outbreak, the UK had about 5,000 intensive care beds, and the government has been scrambling to increase that capacity.
The Nightingale Hospital — a temporary facility for coronavirus patients built in nine days at London’s vast ExCel conference center — admitted its first patients on Wednesday. It can accommodate 4,000 beds, if needed. even other temporary hospitals are being built around the country.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is the epicenter of Britain’s outbreak, had one-quarter of its existing hospital beds still available, as well as the new Nightingale hospital.
“It demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus,” he said.