Newly re-inaugurated President Vladimir Putin will not be attending a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama or the subsequent G-8 meetings at Camp David, the Kremlin confirmed Thursday.
"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 G-8 Summit at Camp David on May 18-19," the Kremlin statement read.
The White House signaled the cancellation in a media note Wednesday, stating the two leaders held a call Wednesday to discuss the change. "President Putin expressed his regret that he would be unable to attend the G8 Summit at Camp David on May 18-19. President Obama expressed his understanding of President Putin's decision," the call's readout read.
Russia watchers say the cancellation was due to domestic trouble at home, where mass protests have been ongoing since Putin's swearing in ceremony Monday, May 7. In lieu of Putin, Russia will send former President and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the U.S. meetings. It is exactly this revolving door of Russian politics - one that brought Putin back into his second term as President Monday - that embroils the Russia crowds in Moscow and outlying cities.
The U.S. is aware of the protests and is concerned about human rights abuses in the aftermath of Putin's swearing in, the State Department confirmed.
"We are troubled by reports of violence in Moscow during the protests on May 6th and by the arrests that have been carried out over the last three days. We are disturbed by images of police mistreatment of peaceful protestors both during the protests and after detentions," Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday.
"We call on all parties to refrain from violence and strongly urge the authorities to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and speech."
Hundreds of protesters, including organizers Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, in the days after Putin's swearing in. In a document signed hours after the ceremony, Putin criticized the United States, saying Russia would "consistently stand up for its policy in connection with the creation by the United States of a global missile defense system, seeking firm guarantees it is not directed against Russia's nuclear deterrent forces."
However, the decree was signed before Putin made the decision to cancel the trip and the remarks, typical among Russian leaders, will not effect U.S.-Russian relations. On the contrary, Putin was criticized by the right of his party for allowing NATO to use the Ulyanovsk facility in central Russia to supply troops in Afghanistan.
Putin and Obama have agreed to meet at the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico June 18-19. Various issues, including nuclear security and non-proliferation, missile defense, Afghanistan, Russia's acquisition into the WTO and trade will be discussed.
by RTT Staff Writer
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