Putin hints at Dalai Lama visit to Russia

Agence France-Presse
Putin's comments marked a seeming shift in Russia's diplomatic position on an issue that has become a priority for China in its foreign relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past guests during his inauguration at The Kremlin in Moscow, May 7, 2012. Photo courtesy of the official website of the Russian presidency.

MOSCOW, Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin held out the prospect Tuesday of a visit by the Dalai Lama despite ally China’s pressure on other governments to shun the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Putin said he understood that a visit by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been strongly favoured by residents of Russia’s predominantly Buddhist region of Kalmykia on the Caspian Sea.

“Of course we understand the people of Kalmykia who are awaiting the Dalai Lama’s arrival,” Putin told a group of young supporters in comments broadcast from a political training camp in central Russia.

“We will work in this direction,” Putin said when asked whether the spiritual leader’s arrival in Kalmykia could be expected anytime soon.

The comments marked a seeming shift in Russia’s diplomatic position on an issue that has become a priority for China in its foreign relations.

Moscow had previously strongly supported Beijing’s treatment of the Dalai Lama as a separatist politician whose activities should not be recognised by other states.

Putin recognised that concern by noting that the Dalai Lama had not been to Russia before due to his “positioning in the world not as a religious leader but as a politician.”

But the Tibetan leader announced last year that he was giving up his political role to focus on spiritual duties.

Putin offered no time frame of a potential visit or other details. -Agence France-Presse