Russian President Vladimir Putin has told US President Barack Obama that he will not be attending the G8 Summit of leading industrial nations in Camp David next month, the Kremlin confirmed on Thursday.
The decision – which will see outgoing president and soon-to-be prime minister Dmitry Medvedev attend in his stead on May 18-19 – comes days after Washington criticized Russian authorities’ response to anti-government demonstrations in Moscow on Sunday.
According to The Financial Times, while Russian officials have denied that Thursday’s step is a snub aimed at Obama and the US, this will be the first time that Russia’s president has not attended the G8 summit, to which the nation was added in 1997.
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A White House statement said: “Noting his responsibilities to finalize cabinet appointments in the new Russian government, President Putin expressed his regret that he would be unable to attend the G8 Summit,” the Agence France Presse reports.
“President Obama expressed his understanding of President Putin’s decision and welcomed the participation of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev,” it added. Obama and Putin will now meet on the margins of the G20 summit in Mexico in June.
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According to Reuters, the G8 Summit at Camp David was widely viewed as an excellent opportunity for Obama and Putin to get to know each other, with a planned pre-summit White House meeting also greatly anticipated due to the US president’s recent comments to Medvedev that he would have greater “flexibility” on contentious issues like US missile defence plans in eastern Europe following elections in November.
Putin’s decision highlights growing tensions between the US and Russia on this and other issues, the BBC reports. A State Department spokesman said earlier this week that the US was “disturbed” by the “mistreatment” of peaceful protesters by police during anti-Putin rallies in the Russian capital.
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