Russian President Vladimir Putin has said fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden could remain in Russia but must meet at least one condition.
"If he wants to stay here, there is one condition," Putin said. "He has to stop his work directed at hurting our American partners, as strange as it sounds coming from me."
Snowden is believed to be living in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23.
Putin's comment comes amid conflicting reports from the media. Russian news agency Interfax said Snowden applied for political asylum late on June 30 in a note handed over to the consular section at Sheremetyevo.
Interfax reported Kim Shevchenko was on duty at the consular section and confirmed receiving the request from British citizen Sara Harrison, who presented herself as Snowden's lawyer.
But Russian news agencies Interfax and ITAR-TASS cite the head of Russia's Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, as denying there has been any such request from Snowden.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the matter.
Edward Snowden during an interview with "The Guardian" in his hotel in Hong Kong on June 8
Snowden leaked information on clandestine U.S. surveillance efforts worldwide, creating a huge scandal as allies of the United States learned they, too, were allegedly targets of U.S. monitoring.
U.S. officials have revoked Snowden's passport. State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell, reacting to reports of Snowden's asylum request, said Russia should deliver Snowden to U.S. custody.
"We don’t have information one way or the other. That’s up to the Russians to confirm whether that’s the case there, or other countries to do so," Ventrell said. "But I just don’t have anything one way or the other. He appears to still be in Russia and our position is the same -- that he should be expelled and returned here to the U.S."
Russia never gives up anyone to anybody, and is not planning to. And nobody ever gave anyone up to us.
Putin said that would not happen.
"Russia never gives up anyone to anybody, and is not planning to," Putin said. "And nobody ever gave anyone up to us."
But Putin also said Snowden continued to seek a country that would grant him asylum.
"[Snowden] needs to choose a host country for himself and go there," Putin said. "Unfortunately, I do not know when it's going to happen. If I knew, I would tell you now."
U.S. President Barack Obama said during his visit to Tanzania on July 1 that he still hoped Russia would deliver Snowden into U.S. custody.
"We don't have an extradition treaty with Russia," Obama said. "On the other hand, Mr. Snowden, we understand, has traveled there without a valid passport, without legal papers, and we are hopeful that the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel and the normal interactions that law enforcement [agencies] have."
Snowden has released a statement through WikiLeaks accusing Obama of pressuring countries to deny his asylum requests.
WikiLeaks, which is representing Snowden, said the fugitive intelligence contractor was seeking asylum in 21 countries, including Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela, China, and Russia.
The fallout from the information Snowden leaked continued to raise concerns among the United States' European allies after the German magazine "Der Speigel" reported the NSA conducted spying on Germany, the EU delegation in Washington, and its office at the United Nations.
Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that if reports that Washington spied on its European allies were true, the behavior was "unacceptable."
French President Francois Hollande said, "We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and friends."
Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro said his country's relations with the United States "would be strongly compromised" if the allegations of spying were true.
Obama said U.S. authorities are still looking into what was said in the "Der Speigel" article, adding it was difficult to judge at this moment since the magazine is gradually releasing information.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS