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Putin: U.S. Trapping Snowden In Russia

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of trapping American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden at a Moscow airport.

Putin said Washington had trapped Snowden by pressuring other countries not to shelter him.

Snowden, who revealed massive U.S. global surveillance of telephone and Internet data, has been staying for the past three weeks in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, after flying there from Hong Kong on June 23.

Russia says the transit zone is technically not part of Russian territory.

Snowden last week said he was seeking temporary asylum in Russia until he could travel safely to Latin America, where three countries have offered to accept him.

"He arrived on our territory without an invitation -- we didn't invite him," Putin said on July 15 during a visit to Russia's Gogland Island, in the Gulf of Finland.

"And he was not flying to us -- he was flying in transit to other countries. But as soon as he got in the air it became known, and our American partners, actually, blocked his further flight. They themselves scared other countries."

Putin, however, did not indicate whether Russia could grant asylum to Snowden.

Putin said previously that Russia could only grant Snowden asylum if he stopped leaking information that could be harmful to the United States.

Putin said Snowden appeared to be shifting his position on the question of leaking sensitive data but that the situation is not yet clarified.

Question Of Asylum

Although he avoided addressing the asylum question, Putin said he still hoped Snowden will leave Russia.

"As soon as it's possible for him to go somewhere, I hope he will go," Putin said.

Washington has revoked Snowden's passport and wants him extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. The Obama administration rejects assertions that Snowden is a human rights activist or a dissident.

Snowden has been unable to reach any of the Latin American countries that have offered him asylum: Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia.

This is due, in part, because there are no direct flights to those countries from Moscow. It is also because of concerns by Snowden and his supporters that any flight with Snowden on board could be blocked or pursued by the United States and its allies.

Spain this week apologized to Bolivia for refusing to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane to cross its airspace amid apparent reports that Snowden may have been on the plane. The Bolivian leader’s plane had been flying home from a visit to Moscow and was forced to land in Austria.

Russia’s Federal Migration Service says it has not yet received an asylum application from the 30-year-old Snowden.

The White House on July 12 warned Russia against granting asylum to Snowden, saying this would give the former National Security Agency contractor "a propaganda platform."

Putin has previously made clear that Russia will not extradite Snowden to the United States, as the two countries have no extradition treaty.

Putin and President Barack Obama have discussed the Snowden case by telephone, but apparently were unable to agree on a resolution satisfactory to both sides.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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