, MOSCOW, Jul 2 – Fugitive US intelligence specialist Edward Snowden, breaking a 10-day silence since fleeing Hong Kong, accused Washington of pressuring foreign leaders to refuse him refuge as he sought asylum in 21 countries including Russia.
Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, accused President Barack Obama of ordering Vice President Joe Biden to pressure leaders of countries where he was seeking asylum.
“These are the old, bad tools of political aggression,” he said in a statement published Monday by WikiLeaks.
“Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
He added: “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
On Sunday night, the former US National Security Agency contractor applied for political asylum at the consulate office of Sheremetyevo airport, a foreign ministry official told AFP.
WikiLeaks employee Sarah Harrison had submitted the request on his behalf, said the official.
A WikiLeaks statement later said that in additional to earlier asylum requests submitted to Iceland and Ecuador, Snowden had now asked 19 other countries for refuge.
Harrison had submitted the petitions on his behalf to Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, the group said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday Snowden was welcome to stay as long as he stopped leaking US intelligence reports.
“If he (Snowden) wants to remain here there is one condition — he should stop his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners no matter how strange this may sound coming from me,” Putin told reporters earlier Monday.
But he appeared to acknowledge that Snowden was unlikely to fall silent.
“Because he feels like a rights activist and defender of human rights all indications are that he is not going to stop this work,” Putin said.
“So he has to choose a country of residence for himself and move there.”
Snowden’s statement came hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet Tuesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Brunei.