Duterte on Putin: We became 'fast friends'

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Duterte on Putin: We became 'fast friends'
President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru on November 19.
ROBINSON NIÑAL JR. / Presidential Photo
LIMA, Peru — He just met his “idol” here last Saturday but President Rodrigo Duterte already considers Russia President Vladimir Putin and himself as “fast friends.” 
Still delighted by his bilateral meeting with Putin, Duterte narrated to reporters Monday how the often poker-faced Russian leader smiled in his presence and repeatedly invited him to Russia.
“You know, we have become fast friends, President Putin and (China) President Xi Jinping,” Duterte said. 
Duterte had a bilateral meeting with Xi on Sunday (Manila time) before his engagement with Putin.
“His (Putin) smile was wide. According to news reports, he does not laugh. But he was smiling all along. He said ‘do not forget to visit Russia. I reserved something for you there.’ ‘True?’ ‘Gun.’ He loves guns,” Duterte said, adding that the Russian president is fond of hunting. 
“It seemed like we’ve known each other for so long and even the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake. And you know, I didn’t realize then… before we were seated.”
Duterte said he and Putin were seated beside each other in one of the APEC sessions. 
“I was talking with the, I think, the Premier of Vietnam. They were thanking me for the sailors that we sent home. We talked and when I finally sat down, I found out that President Putin was on my left side, so we shook hands,” Duterte said.  
“And then after that, I shook his hands again and I finally said I’ll go ahead. Then he gestured to me ‘don’t forget to visit Russia,’” he added.
“He has extended the gracious invitation maybe about four times already. And maybe I will go… I shall go someday.” 
During his bilateral meeting with Putin, Duterte assailed western countries, including the United States, for allegedly bullying smaller nations. He also told Putin that the US had forced its allies to join its wars.
Journalists who covered the event were not able to hear Putin’s response as they were already asked to leave the venue while Duterte was talking. 
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte merely explained to Putin the context and the reasons behind his tirades against the West.
Asked how Putin responded to Duterte’s statements, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who was present during the meeting, said: “Generally, what President Putin said is that we share your sentiments…”  
“He said ‘our assessments coincide in many respects,’” he added without elaborating.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who was also in the meeting, said Putin lauded Duterte’s firmness.
“Something was said about his being firm, perhaps in a way, he would no longer be bullied, something like that,” Lopez said. 
Asked if the president was happy that he finally met Putin, Esperon replied: “We were also happy.”

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