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Obama, Putin Discuss Snowden Case

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed by telephone the case of fugitive American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

No details about the call were immediately released.

Earlier on July 12, the White House warned Russia against granting asylum to Snowden, saying this would give the leaker "a propaganda platform."

Snowden announced on July 12 that he is seeking temporary asylum in Russia. It was not immediately clear whether Russia will approve the request.

Snowden met with human rights activists at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been staying in a transit zone since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.

The Obama administration has been demanding that Russia expel Snowden so he can face criminal charges in the United States. Washington rejects assertions that Snowden is a human rights activist or a dissident.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has revealed details about the United States' collecting global phone and Internet data.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said granting Snowden's request would be "incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests."

He repeated the United States' call for Snowden to be extradited to face criminal charges back home, and suggested that doing otherwise could damage U.S.-Russian relations:

Carney said: "Our position also remains that we don't believe this should -- and we don't want it to -- do harm to our important relationship with Russia and we continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorized leaking of classified information."

Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, a member of the Russian Public Chamber and one of the people who met with Snowden on July 12, told reporters that he would provide legal support to the fugitive.

Kucherena explained that, in order for Snowden to proceed with his asylum request, he should "write an application under Russian law."

"[Snowden] said he had such a desire, and he wrote such an application requesting political asylum in our country," Kucherena added.

Snowden reportedly made an earlier application for Russian asylum, but Russian officials say he withdrew it after President Vladimir Putin said asylum would be conditional on his halting the leaking of U.S. secrets.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin had not yet received Snowden's asylum request but he added that the conditions Putin insisted upon – i.e. that Snowden "fully stops activities causing damage to our American partners" – must be met.

Kucherena indicated that Snowden was willing to abide by those conditions.

"[Snowden] confirmed to us today that he was prepared to honor Vladimir Putin's request and discontinue his activity -- let's say subversive activity -- with regard to the U.S. government," he said.

Russian media have reported that Snowden is still considering moving from Russia to another country in the future.

The head of Amnesty International’s office in Moscow, Sergei Nikitin, said Snowden had not ruled out traveling on to a "Latin American country."

Thus far, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua have offered him asylum.


With reporting by Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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