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Dalai Lama Consecrates New Monastery in Kalmykia  - 2004-11-30

Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims gathered at a temple in southern Russia Tuesday to join prayers led by the Dalai Lama, who has been allowed in the country for the first time in more than 12 years.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was visiting the Khurul Monastery during the second day of this three-day visit to Russia's Buddhist region of Kalmykia.

China has criticized Moscow's decision to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, saying Beijing does not approve of any country allowing him to engage in what China calls separatist activities.

Russian officials say they issued him a visa with the expectation he would not engage in any political activities. Moscow has rejected visa requests from the Dalai Lama at least three times in the past.