President Vladimir Putin pledged on Tuesday to continue efforts to bring Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Russia.
Asked about the possibility of inviting the Dalai Lama to Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia whose residents profess Buddhism, Putin said that the government “will work in this direction.”
“For those who are not familiar with the details of this issue, I can say that this problem is related to the fact that the Dalai Lama is viewed more as a political leader than a religious one,” Putin said during the annual pro-Kremlin youth gathering at the Lake Seliger camp in Tver region.
The Dalai Lama last traveled to Russia on an informal visit in 1992. He took part in a sacred service in the Ivolga Datsan (monastery), the Buryatia-based Russian Buddhism Center, and met representatives of the republic’s Buddhist community.
In December 2011, the Buddhist leader met with a 1,500-strong group of Russian pilgrims in his Indian residence in Dharamsala, the center of the Tibetan exile community.
China would likely object to any foreign leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of orchestrating the March 2008 unrest in Tibet, which left 19 people dead and 623 injured.
China occupied Tibet in 1950 and claims the region has been part of its territory for centuries. No state has yet recognized the Tibetan government-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, has repeatedly said he seeks autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from China.