MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Incumbent Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sharply criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin for killing innocent civilians in Ukraine, saying as the two were branded killers: “I kill criminals, I don’t kill children. and the elderly.
Duterte, who openly calls Putin an idol and a friend, expressed his first rebuke to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in remarks released on Tuesday where he blamed the three-month war for soaring prices world oil prices which hit many countries, including the Philippines.
While emphasizing that he was not condemning the Russian president, Duterte disagreed with Putin calling the invasion a “special military operation”, and said it was actually a a full-scale war waged against “a sovereign nation”.
“Many say Putin and I are both killers. I have long told you Filipinos that I really kill. But I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly,” Duterte said during a televised weekly meeting with key Cabinet officials. “We are in two different worlds.
Duterte, who steps down on June 30 at the end of his turbulent six-year term, presided over a brutal drug crackdown that left more than 6,000 people dead, mostly petty suspects. Human rights groups have cited a much higher death toll and say innocent people, including children, have been killed in the campaign that Duterte vows to pursue until his dying day in office. able.
The unprecedented campaign against drugs killings have sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court as a possible crime against humanity. Duterte said he expects to face more lawsuits stemming from drug-related deaths at the end of his presidency.
Duterte and his police have denied sanctioning extrajudicial executions as part of the campaign against illegal drugs, but have openly threatened drug suspects with death and tried unsuccessfully to reimpose the death penalty in the largest Catholic country of Asia to deter drug traffickers and other criminals.
When he took office in 2016, he reached out to Russia and China for trade and investment and to expand military cooperation while often criticizing the security policies of Washington, a longtime ally of Manila.
He visited Russia twice in 2017 and 2019 to meet Putin, but cut his first visit short after militants aligned with the Islamic State group besieged the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines as he was away with his Secretary of Defense and Chief of Military Staff.
More than a week after Russian forces besieged Ukraine, the Philippines voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion. The Philippines called for the protection of civilians and public infrastructure in Ukraine, although Duterte refrained from strongly criticizing Putin and said he would remain neutral in a conflict that could potentially lead to the use of nuclear weapons and start World War III.
Addressing Putin “as a friend” and the Russian Embassy in Manila, Duterte urged them to stop shelling and artillery fire on residential areas and allow innocent civilians to evacuate in safely before launching a bombardment.
“You control everything. Anyway, you really started the rowdy there, so strictly control your soldiers. They go wild,” Duterte said.
Duterte expressed concern about the stability of his country’s oil supply as the war in Ukraine continues to rage and spark global instability.
“I’m about to leave and I don’t know how to solve the problem,” Duterte said. “You need to resolve the war between Ukraine and Russia before we can even talk about a return to normalcy.”