Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced he will skip the upcoming G8 summit in the US as he will be busy forming a new government after his inauguration. Both countries say the act is not a snub of Barack Obama.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that new Russian President Vladimir Putin will be too busy to attend the G8 summit on May 18-19, hosted by Barack Obama in the United States. While analysts say that the act shows difficult relations between the two nations, both governments have denied that the act is a snub.
The G8 summit next week at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland in the US will bring together leaders of the eight largest economies. It was to be Putin's first foreign trip since returning to the presidency on Monday, after four years as Russian Prime Minister.
According to an official statement from the Kremlin, Putin told Obama in a telephone call that he couldn't attend. "The American side received this information with understanding," the statement added.
Russia also confirmed that Putin would be represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who until Monday served as president. Unlike Putin, Medvedev has met up with Obama several times.
No snub intended
Putin's visit to the United States has come at a tense time between the two nations. The US is currently pressing ahead with a European missile shield despite Russian complaints. The new US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, also recently criticized Russia's treatment of protesters.
According to Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, the reason given, of forming the government "is hardly convincing and the fact that Prime Minister Medevdev is going instead only enforces this impression for me".
She also noted that the demands of forming a government did not appear to be holding back French President-elect Francois Hollande, who only takes office on May 15.
Russian officials swiftly denied there was any snub intended however, emphasizing that in Russia the President has the final word on the appointment of ministers who are merely nominated by the prime minister.
"In this case there is a technical problem as it is indeed the president who takes the decision about the composition of the government," according to Putin's aide, Arkady Dvorkovich.
US officials also played down the move. The Kremlin said that the two presidents had agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in mid-June in Mexico.