South Korean ambassador attends Putin’s inauguration as US and others boycott

Posted on : 2024-05-08 16:55 KST Modified on : 2024-05-08 16:55 KST
The ambassador’s attendance seemed to come out of a consideration of Seoul’s need to manage relations with Moscow
Ambassador Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s top envoy to Russia, attends the opening ceremony of the 2024 heads of overseas mission meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on April 22, 2024, where he exchanges greetings with another attendee. (Yonhap)
Ambassador Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s top envoy to Russia, attends the opening ceremony of the 2024 heads of overseas mission meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on April 22, 2024, where he exchanges greetings with another attendee. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s ambassador to Russia attended Vladimir Putin’s inauguration ceremony as he was sworn in for a fifth term at the Kremlin at noon on Tuesday.

Numerous Western countries, including the US and European Union members, declined to send representatives to the ceremony.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a meeting with reporters that day that Lee had attended the ceremony. The ministry appeared to have made the decision to have him attend out of consideration of the need to manage relations with Moscow.

“Within the European Union, around 20 countries said they would be boycotting the inauguration ceremony, while the remaining countries said they would attend,” the official said, explaining that South Korea’s decision came in a situation where different countries were making different decisions about whether to send representatives.

As the Foreign Ministry described, different countries were not able to agree on whether to send representatives to Putin’s inauguration ceremony amid Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

Declaring that the US representative would not be attending the ceremony, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday that the US “did not consider that [Russian presidential] election free and fair.”

A spokesperson for the EU likewise said it would not be sending its ambassador in Russia to attend Putin’s ceremony, while the UK, Germany, and Canada all announced they would be sitting the event out.

Seven countries reportedly did send representatives to the ceremony, including France, Hungary and Slovakia.

Reuters commented that the attendance of a French representative drew particular attention as France has experienced friction with Russia over the recent increase in its support to Ukraine.

South Korea appears to have made the decision to send a representative out of concerns about bilateral relations with Russia souring further.

Russia has recently been in conflict with South Korea, with its veto last March of an extension of the mandate of an expert panel for the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea and its detention of a South Korean national missionary on espionage charges.

The South Korean government announced on April 2 that it would be imposing independent sanctions against Russia for violations of UNSC resolutions sanctioning North Korea, prompting Russia to summon Ambassador Lee Do-hoon to protest.

By Shin Hyeong-cheol, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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