President Vladimir Putin says NSA leaker Edward Snowden may stay in Russia, if he wants to, but only if he stops activities aimed against the United States.
“There is one condition if he wants to remain here: he must stop his work aimed at damaging our American partners. As odd as it may sound from me,” Putin told a media conference in Moscow.
In Putin’s opinion, Snowden considers himself “a fighter for human rights” and it seems unlikely that he is going to stop leaking American secret data.
However, Russia is not going to extradite Snowden, the president underlined.
“Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so. Same as no one has ever been extradited to Russia,” Putin stated.
“At best,” he noted, Russia exchanged its foreign intelligence employees detained abroad for “those who were detained, arrested and sentenced by a court in the Russian Federation.”
Snowden “is not a Russian agent”, the president said, repeating that Russian intelligence services were not working with the fugitive American.
He said Snowden should choose his final destination and go there. Putin added that he has no idea when that is going to happen.
“If I knew, I would tell you now,” he told the media conference after the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries.
Putin and his US counterpart Barrack Obama instructed their nations’ security services – Russia’s FSB and America’s FBI respectively – to resolve the situation around the Snowden case, Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council said earlier on Monday.
The former CIA employee Snowden, who is behind the biggest leak in the NSA, has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for over a week now, after he arrived in the Russian capital from Hong Kong.
The US annulled the whistleblower’s American passport and he presently has no other documents with which he can travel.
Putin suspects US spied on Russian embassies
Putin does not rule out that the US was bugging Russian diplomatic missions. The President was commenting on a scandal stirred up by new documents leaked by Snowden which revealed that the US was spying on dozens of foreign missions and embassies abroad.
“It’s none of our business that allies are eavesdropping on each other. Let them do what they want,” Putin stated.
He observed that there was nothing in the leaked data on attempts to bug official Russian representations.
“I don’t rule out that it’s possible,” Putin noted.
The US special services work on a global scale, but they also have “some kind of departmental interests.”
“Let our colleagues [special services] decide which of them is right and which is wrong and what should be done to stop it,” Putin concluded.