Russia grants Dalai Lama a visa

BBC News

Russia says it is granting a visa to the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for the first time since the collapse of the USSR.

This will allow him to visit the large Buddhist population in southern Kalmykia region.

Dalai Lama visited Soviet Russia in 1991, but since then Moscow has bowed to Chinese pressure and denied him a visa.

Beijing sees Tibet as an integral part of the country and accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist.

A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry agreed with China’s view that “Tibet is an unalienable part of the People’s Republic of China”, but added:

“At the same time, the Russian constitution guarantees people’s religious right. We respect the desires of more than a million Buddhists in our country, who have repeatedly called for a Dalai Lama visit.”

Russian Buddhist have staged a number of rallies and signed numerous petitions demanding that the authorities allow a visit by the Dalai Lama.

The date for the visit has not been set, but, according to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the autonomous republic of Kalmykia, 100,000 pilgrims from all over Russia are expected to gather in the Kalmyk capital, Elista, to meet the Dalai Lama.

China has not provided an official reaction to Moscow’s decision.


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