In his first foreign policy move, Russia's new President Vladimir Putin will skip a Group of Eight meeting next week.
The Kremlin said Mr. Putin, who reclaimed the presidency on Monday, decided to pull out of the G8 summit in Camp David on May 18-19 because he would be busy finalising the makeup of the Cabinet.
Mr. Putin told U.S. President Barack Obama during a telephone call on Wednesday night that Russia would be represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
By staying away, Mr. Putin would miss his first meeting as President with Mr. Obama. The two leaders agreed to meet now on the sidelines of a Group of Twenty summit in Mexico next month, said the Kremlin.
The official reason for Mr. Putin's absence from G20 did not sound convincing, since the main responsibility for Cabinet formation rests with the Prime Minister, who announced on Thursday that “political appointments” to the government had been already agreed.
Experts said Mr. Putin was probably signalling his unhappiness to Washington over its criticism of recent political developments in Russia. The State Department said the U.S. was “disturbed” by Russia's “police mistreatment” of peaceful protesters during a massive manifestation in Moscow on May 6 against Mr. Putin's return as President.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's had earlier denounced the December parliamentary poll as “neither free nor fair”. Mr. Putin at the time accused Washington of stoking political protests in Russia over alleged vote rigging.
The Kremlin said Mr. Obama expressed “understanding” for Mr. Putin's cancellation, but Washington had every reason to treat it as a snub. The G8 summit was originally planned to be held in Chicago, where a NATO summit is to take place a day later, but Mr. Obama moved the G8 to a different place to avoid causing embarrassment to Mr. Putin, who refused to attend the NATO meeting over a missile defence dispute with the U.S.