Philippines could breach US sanctions with Russian arms deal: report

Philippines could breach US sanctions with Russian arms deal: report
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The Philippines could find itself running afoul of U.S. sanctions if it goes through with an arms purchase from a sanctioned Russian firm. 

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the Philippines had agreed in October to buy 750 RPG-7B rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-run arms exporter. 

The deal has yet to go through, according to Reuters. But under a measure passed by Congress last year, countries that do business with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors are subject to U.S. sanctions.

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The Philippines' deal with Russia, worth 400 million pesos or $7.48 million, would be the country's first purchase of Russian weapons, according to Reuters, although Moscow has donated supplies, like assault rifles, to the island nation before.

The Philippines has long had a close defense relationship with Washington and has typically relied on the U.S. for weapons and military supplies.

But Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called for his country to strengthen its ties with China and Russia. He railed against the U.S. as he ascended to office in 2016 and decried former President Obama's criticism of his brutal war on drugs. 

He has also said that he will not visit the U.S. during or after his tenure as president, despite receiving an invite from President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE.

A State Department official told Reuters that foreign governments and companies had been warned that "significant transactions with any of the 39 listed entities will result in sanctions."

According to Reuters, a senior Philippines defense official said the government had not been formally warned by the U.S. that the arms deal with Rosoboronexport could trigger sanctions. 

"It’s still a go until we are informed," the official said.