'Putin declines to host China's future premier'
Moscow: Vladimir Putin has refused to host a
top Chinese official tipped to become China's next prime minister due to his busy agenda ahead of polls putting a strain on bilateral ties, a newspaper said Wednesday.
Kommersant broadsheet, citing sources in the
Russian-Chinese inter-governmental commission, the Russian
foreign ministry and the government, said that vice Premier Li
Keqiang tagged to become China's next prime minister, had
wanted this month to visit Russia to meet Prime Minister Putin
and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
The newspaper said that Li had however cancelled the visit
because the Russian government indicated Putin would not be
available to host him due to his busy agenda ahead of March
presidential elections in which the Russian prime minister
plans to win back his old Kremlin job.
"There's so much fuss over these elections, there's no
time for him," the newspaper quoted a government source as
saying. Putin is facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his
12-year rule, with tens of thousands of people taking to the
streets in December.
The Kremlin also did not give a definitive answer as to
whether Medvedev would be available to meet with Li, who has
never been to Russia before, the report said.
A new generation of leaders must take over the reins of
power in China within a year. President Hu Jintao will end his
second five-year term as party head this year, while Li is
expected to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao who will resign
The reported cancellation of the visit comes after Russia
declined Hu's proposal to conduct a joint forum of the two
countries' ruling parties during Putin's visit to China last
October ahead of parliamentary elections in Russia, Kommersant
Russian foreign ministry officials are hoping Li could
visit Russia later in the year, the newspaper added.
Russia, the world's largest energy producer, and China,
the world's largest energy consumer, set much store by their