Buddhists Protest Russia's Refusal of Visa for Dalai Lama

MOSCOW, AUG. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- About 150 Buddhists protested in front of the Russian Foreign Ministry against the decision to refuse a visa to the Dalai Lama to visit the federation’s Buddhist republics.

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Some 35 protesters were taken to a police station today, while two were received at the Ministry by Leonid Safonov, head of security, who — according to the Interfax agency — told them that the decision against the Tibetan leader was made «at a higher level.»

The Dalai Lama planned to visit the republics of Buriatia, Tuva and Kalmukia, where 1 million Buddhists reside, a Tibetan spokesman explained, whose government in exile has its headquarters in northern India.

Buddhist leaders recently wrote to President Vladimir Putin asking him to allow the Tibetan spiritual and political head to make the trip.

Observers say the decision to refuse the Dalai Lama a visa for the second time in two years is due to Moscow’s determination not to endanger its strategic and economic relations with China. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is now concluding a visit to China.

Buddhist leaders have expressed the hope that, after Kasyanov’s visit, the Kremlin will reverse itself and allow the Dalai Lama to visit the country. He last visited Russia in 1992.

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