Russia blocks Dalai Lama visit

MOSCOW, Russia -- Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been refused entry to Russia, where he had planned to meet with Buddhist groups in September.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday it would not allow the Dalai Lama to visit the country, amid concerns about the political motivations for his trip.

Russian Buddhists have reacted angrily to the decision, threatening to mount a protest outside the ministry in Moscow, and slamming Russia for being submissive to China over Tibetan issues.

The leader of Russia's Buddhists, Damba Ayusheyev, said "banning the Dalai Lama from entering Russia would be a violation of the constitutional rights of all Buddhists in our country," Reuters news agency quoted Russia's Interfax news agency as reporting.

Russia's move is seen by many as a way out of offending Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of vying for an independent Tibet.

It would have been the Dalai Lama's first visit in 10 years.

Revered by Tibetans as the reincarnation of a long line of Buddhist kings, the Dalai Lama has lived in the Himalayan town of Dharmasala since fleeing Tibet after a failed revolt against Chinese rule in 1959.

Position of China

It is the second time in a year that Moscow has refused to allow the leader of Tibetan Buddhists into the country.

"In examining this issue, we naturally have to take into account the position of China, whose government regards the political activities of the Dalai Lama very negatively," Reuters quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

The statement drew attention to the proposed inclusion of members of the Tibetan government-in-exile in the Dalai Lama's entourage.

Buddhism is recognized by the Russian Federation's law on religion as one of the "traditional" faiths, along with Islam, Judaism and Orthodox Christianity.

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to visit the three Siberian republics of Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia, where around one million Russian Buddhists live.

Last September, the Dalai Lama was forced to cancel a visit to Mongolia after the Russian Government refused him a transit visa.