Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit Moscow next week for a parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic, a government official said.
The parade was originally scheduled for May 9 but was postponed by the virus. He had also been slated to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the trip.
Russia was notified Abe will skip the rescheduled parade next Wednesday to focus on responding to the epidemic in Japan, Hideki Uyama, deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, told an Upper House committee Friday.
Japan’s ambassador to Russia, Toyohisa Kozuki, may attend in Abe’s place if invited, said Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
Abe had been leaning toward skipping the parade because the date clashed with a Group of Seven summit that had been slated to be held in the United States around the same time.
Although the G7 summit was postponed until fall, there are lingering concerns over the virus’s spread in Russia, which is currently third in infections behind the United States and Brazil.
Abe and Putin last held talks in September last year in Vladivostok to advance stalled negotiations on the Russian-held isles off Hokkaido claimed by Japan.
But the organizer of the Eastern Economic Forum said Friday it has called off the event this year and plans to resume it in September 2021, meaning Abe will not be able to meet Putin this fall.
Abe has participated in the forum for four consecutive years since 2016, holding bilateral talks with Putin each time. The organizer did not reveal the reason for canceling the event.
The spat over the Russian-held islands has prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty to formally end WWII.