04/14/2015 07:40 EDT | Updated 06/21/2015 06:59 EDT

Russia's foreign minister passes on Iqaluit Arctic Council meeting

Russia's top diplomat will not take part in the upcoming Arctic Council meeting in Iqaluit this month, and according to one international relations expert, it's because Russia doesn't see any need to.

The Russian embassy in Ottawa recently announced that its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has opted out of the two-day meeting of ministers from Arctic countries and six indigenous organizations April 24-25.

Instead, Russia will send its environment and natural resources minister to the summit.

Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, says that's because of the council's recent focus on domestic issues and not due to recent tension between Canada and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

"You can't really blame him for saying 'I don't need to be there,'" says Byers. "The Russians don't consider that anything important about foreign policy will be done in Iqaluit."

Byers says foreign diplomats have privately criticized Canada for shifting the Arctic Council's focus to domestic issues under its chairmanship.

An official in Finland's foreign ministry said it's "regrettable not all foreign ministers will be there" but added Russia's sending a minister is a clear signal they are engaged in Arctic issues.