Representatives of religious leaders in the Russian Federation have criticized the Russian Government’s lack of consideration for Russian Buddhists in denying a visa to the Dalai Lama, who was scheduled to give Buddhist teachings in the republics of Buriatya, Kalmykia and Tuva in September 2002.

The Visit Organizing Committee headed by Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheev of Buriatya, Khambo Lama Norbu Sangpo of Tuva and Telo Tulku Rinpoche, Buddhist head of Kalmyk Republic, addressed a press conference on August 19, 2002, protesting Russian Foreign Ministry’s decision to deny the Dalai Lama permission to enter the country, saying the delegation for his proposed visit to Russia is made up of religious not political figures.

Telo Tulku said that the constitutional rights of the citizens of Russia to the freedom of belief and religion are being grossly violated in the country by ignoring the wishes of the Russian Buddhists to receive the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

The Russian Government’s decision was announced on August 16.

“At this stage, it has been deemed appropriate to cancel the Dalai Lama’s visit to Russia,” Russian Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman, Boris Malakhov, said in answering questions by reporters.

The spokesman was quoted by the media as saying that the Dalai Lama mixes politics with religion to a degree unacceptable to China – and, by extension, to Russia.

“Evidence of this is, among other things, the inclusion in the delegation of members of the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile, artists and other figures,” said Malakhov, was quoted as saying.

However, the Representative of the Dalai Lama in Moscow, Ngawang Gelek, denies any such motives. He told the Tibetan media that the Dalai Lama was coming solely to bestow religious teachings, at the request of Buddhists in Russia.

Several religious leaders in Russia reacted to the decision on the Dalai Lama.

Talgat Tadzhuddin, Supreme Mufti of Russia and CIS European Countries, said “It is the government’s business to admit or refuse the Dalai Lama to Russia.” He noted, however, that the authorities should have considered the opinion of the Buddhist community.

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar openly disagreed with the decision. “It is impossible to apply the regular bureaucratic manner to leaders of the country’s traditional religions,” he said.

“The overall area of religious feelings requires a huge amount of tact. One must deal with things that concern the interests of the deepest aspects of life of an enormous number of people,” Lazar said.

“Such aspects must not be mixed with politics,” he remarked. “This approach is true only for traditional religions, but not for destructive sects whose influence may harm the nation.”

About 30 Russian Buddhists as well as Tibetans living in Moscow staged a protest in front of the Russian Foreign Ministry on August 17, 2002. Since the meeting was not officially sanctioned the city police immediately arrested approximately ten activists and detained them for about two hours.