Putin accuses US of ‘trapping’ Snowden in Russia

July 16, 2013 6:06 am
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Russian supporters of US National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive leaker Edward Snowden rally in Moscow on July 12, 2013/AFP
Russian supporters of US National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive leaker Edward Snowden rally in Moscow on July 12, 2013/AFP
MOSCOW, Jul 16 – Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of trapping US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow, saying he would leave Russia as soon as possible.

“As soon as there’s the chance to move somewhere he will certainly do this,” Putin said in televised remarks.

“He arrived on our territory uninvited, he did not fly to us, he was flying in transit to other countries,” Putin said.

“But as soon as he was in the air, it became known, and our American partners essentially blocked off his further flight.”

These were Putin’s first public remarks since Snowden met with several rights activists and lawyers Friday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he is stranded.

Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 and the US revoked his passport the same day.

Booked on a June 24 flight from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, he never boarded the plane. Snowden has been stranded in the airport’s transit zone since then.

“Judging by his latest statement, he is somewhat changing his position,” said Putin. “But the situation has not been finally clarified so far.”

Putin said of the United States: “They themselves scared off all the other countries, no one wants to take him, and therefore they essentially themselves trapped him on our territory.

“A nice gift to us for Christmas,” he told Russian reporters travelling with him on a visit to the island of Gogland in the Gulf of Finland.

He did not know what would become of Snowden. “How would I know? That’s his life, his fate,” the president said.

But he did note a change in position by the former NSA contractor. Snowden announced on Friday that he did, after all, want to apply for asylum in Russia until he could travel on to Latin America, where several countries have offered him asylum.

He had withdrawn his initial application after Putin said earlier this month that Snowden could claim asylum in Russia only if he stopped his leaks.

When Snowden announced Friday he was renewing his application, he said he had promised not to harm US interests in the future.

“Judging by his latest statement, he is somewhat changing his position,” said Putin. “But the situation has not been finally clarified so far.”

He said nothing about whether or not Snowden’s application would be accepted.

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