Russia has released 17 illegally-recruited overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) briefly detained by authorities on May 16, an apparent display of goodwill ahead of President Duterte's visit to Moscow next week.
In a statement, Philippine Ambassador to the Russia Carlos Sorreta said 14 of those detained were released on Wednesday. He issued an update on his Facebook page on Friday and said the remaining three have also been released.
"In our discussion with Russian authorities, we emphasized that the detainees are victims and not criminals. They are victims of illegal recruitment and should not be punished. They should be set free," Sorreta said in a statement.
“Filipinos in Russia obey the law, are hardworking and do not cause problems. There is also a lot of goodwill between the Philippines and Russia today, with increasing prospects for cooperation in a wide range of areas. These factors helped us in securing the release of our Filipinos,” he said.
President Duterte will fly to Russia next week for a 'landmark visit' where he is expected to push for stronger defense and trade relations.
Last month, Duterte boarded a Russian warship for the second time and said: "The Russians are with me, so I should not be afraid."
The Philippine Embassy is currently working to see if the released OFWs would still be able to continue with their employment in Russia. If they will not be allowed, the embassy will help them go back to the Philippines.
"We would like to advice those seeking to work in Russia to follow both Philippine and Russia laws. For those already here, please continue to observe the laws of the country, be respectful to lawful authorities and do not call attention to yourselves," Sorreta said.