x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Duterte promises 'comfort' for Russian drug suspects

Philippines president made the commitment at a meeting with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev during summit in Manila

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 20th ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Manila, Philippines, on November 14, 2017. Noel Celis / EPA
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 20th ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Manila, Philippines, on November 14, 2017. Noel Celis / EPA

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has pledged that two accused Russian drug traffickers will be detained in a "comfortable house", rather than his nation's over-crowded jails.

Mr Duterte made the commitment at a meeting on Monday with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev during a summit in Manila.

"I would just like to say that we have a working functional justice system here, and they will get a fair trial and that they will be detained in a comfortable house," Mr Duterte told Mr Medvedev.

"Whether [the allegations are] true or not, we will find out but I will see to it that they are treated fairly and no additional stress on their person that will happen."

Yuri Kirdyushkin and Anastasia Novopashina were under investigation for drug smuggling but had not been convicted, Mr Duterte said.

Mr Duterte's 16-month rule has been dominated by a violent campaign against illegal drugs in which police have reported killing 3,967 suspects.

Another 2,290 people have been killed in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Human rights groups and domestic critics said the crackdown could be a crime against humanity, warning that police and hired assassins are carrying out mass murder.

Mr Duterte has railed against his critics and insisted human rights should take a back seat to eradicating drug traffickers.

He has also said he would be happy for all Filipino drug addicts to be "slaughtered".

Rights groups said the campaign has added pressure on the country's over-crowded prisons, with inmates forced to endure abject living conditions.

In many cases, prisoners have to take turns sleeping. Some wait years for their cases to go through the courts.

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Mr Duterte did not provide details on the two Russians' cases, and the Russian embassy and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency spokesmen told AFP they could not comment on the case.

News reports said Mr Kirdyushkin was arrested with about 10 kilos of cocaine at Manila airport on October 5 last year.

Manila airport customs police detained Ms Novopashina in November last year after finding nearly 13 kilos of cocaine in her luggage, the reports said.

Russia's ties with the Philippines, a long-time US ally, have been improving under Mr Duterte.

Mr Duterte is a self-described socialist and fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mr Duterte on Monday also thanked Russia for supplying guns and other weapons that he said helped defeat Islamist militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

An official transcript of Monday's meeting did not include Mr Medvedev's response on the two detained suspects.