MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin will skip a planned visit to the United States this month for a key global summit and a much-anticipated meeting with President Barack Obama, the Kremlin confirmed Thursday, as he faced pressure from protests and opposition criticism at home.
The White House announced Wednesday that Putin is unable to join the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations meeting outside Washington on May 18-19. The Kremlin said Putin needs to finish work setting up his new government.
Instead, Russia will send Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and new prime minister, to the G8 summit.
The Kremlin said that Obama expressed "understanding" for Putin's cancellation, and the two are now due to meet at another global summit in Mexico in mid-June.
Putin took power this week, returning after four years to a post he had previously held for two terms. He made sharp criticism of the United States a central theme in his election, but it is not clear whether he will pull back from Medvedev's efforts at cooperation with the U.S. in several areas.
Interviewed on Thursday by the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Putin's aide Arkady Dvorkovich rejected suggestions that Putin is avoiding the U.S. visit because of potential questions about human rights violations in Russia.
"I don't think that Putin is scared of anything linked to politics," Dvorkovich said. "This is laughable. These are just idle thoughts that have nothing to do with reality."