Putin confirms Snowden still in Russia
MOSCOW, June 25 (RAPSI) - NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did arrive in Moscow as a transit passenger, but did not cross the border into the Russian Federation, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday, citing a statement made by President Vladimir Putin.
According to President Putin, Snowden's arrival came as a surprise. He went on to explain that Snowden arrived as a transit passenger, and thus did not need or any other documents, adding that as a transit passenger, he has the right to purchase a ticket to go where he wants.
RIA Novosti explained that Snowden is in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport, where one can remain without obtaining a visa for up to 24 hours. Transit visas can be obtained inside the airport, the report added, citing airport policy.
President Putin asserted that any accusations lodged against Russia are nonsense, and urged, “I hope that this won’t affect … our relationship with the United States in any way.”
He further refused to engage such issues as the possibility of extraditing Snowden.
The president added that Russian intelligence services have never worked with Snowden, nor do they presently do so.
According to RIA Novosti, staying in the transit zone of an airport does not constitute crossing a country’s border.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier made the point that Snowden had never crossed the Russian border.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Lavrov explained: "I must say right away that we have nothing to do with Mr. Snowden or his interactions with US justice, or his travels around the world," Lavrov said. "This was done at his own initiative, and we learned this from media reports, just as did most of the individuals present. He did not cross the Russian border."
"We consider these obvious attempts to accuse Russia of violating US legislation and even of conspiracy absolutely unjustified and unacceptable, let alone accompanied by threats. There are no legal grounds whatsoever for the US authorities to act in this manner," the foreign minister said.
"Our assessment of the US actions has been conveyed to the US authorities through the appropriate channels," he added.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said Monday that, "we understand Mr. Snowden to be in Russia and we are, of course, in discussions with Russian authorities about that".
He went on to urge legal cooperation, stating, "And as I just noted, we have a strong law enforcement cooperative relationship with the Russians, and that relationship has resulted in [the] past in us returning criminals to Russia. And we are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States."
Snowden dominated international headlines this month after claiming responsibility for having leaked top-secret documents to The Guardian, detailing the National Security Agency's (NSA) capacity to access the systems of such major US companies as Google, Facebook, and Apple. Google, Facebook, and Apple have all denied having provided direct or backdoor access to their servers.
After the initial leak, Snowden went on to expose various other types of intelligence, including claims to The Guardian that the NSA intercepted communications from Medvedev's delegation during the 2009 G20 summit in London, as well as claims during an interview with the South China Morning Post that the United States had been hacking into Chinese computers for years.
On June 14, the US authorities filed a criminal complaint advancing three charges, each stipulating a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. He has been charged with the theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and the willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors.
The latter two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.
Reuters reported that a flight thought to be carrying Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong and that the whistleblower had allegedly requested asylum in Ecuador.
According to RIA Novosti, US National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Monday that Russia is expected to consider "all options available" to extradite Snowden.
The report further added that Ecuador's foreign minister confirmed via Twitter Sunday that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador.