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Putin: Snowden Can Stay in Russia if He Stops Leaks

  • VOA News

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference, part of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 1, 2013.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference, part of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 1, 2013.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has never extradited anyone before and that U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden could remain in Moscow if he stopped issuing leaks.

Putin said Monday that if Snowden wants to stay in Russia he "must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners - no matter how strange this may sound coming from me."

The Russian president said the former U.S. spy agency contractor "is not a Russian agent," repeating that Russian intelligence services were not working with Snowden, who is believed to remain in the transit area at Moscow's international airport eight days after arriving from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama played down a related controversy over whether Washington had spied on its European allies, saying all intelligence services around the world seek to understand what other nations are thinking.

Speaking in Tanzania, Obama said the United States is still evaluating reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel about the surveillance program and would contact its European counterparts to provide all the information they are requesting.

Several European leaders, including French President Francois Hollande and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, have strongly criticized allegations the U.S. National Security Agency bugged European Union offices and gained access to its internal computer networks.

The allegations have led some in Europe to call for a suspension of talks on a trans-Atlantic trade agreement.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday mutual trust must be restored following the allegations that appeared Saturday in Der Spiegel.

The magazine said the NSA placed listening devices in EU offices in Washington, Brussels and the United Nations in New York, and infiltrated EU computers to monitor telephone conversations, emails and other documents. It quoted secret U.S. documents leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday it is "not unusual" for lots of nations to engage in efforts to protect their security.

"I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that," he said.

Snowden fled the U.S. to Hong Kong in May and then disclosed key documents about the surveillance programs being conducted by the National Security Agency to thwart terrorism. He is believed to be seeking asylum in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Sunday that Snowden's fate is in the hands of Russian authorities because he cannot leave the airport without a valid passport. He said his government cannot begin considering asylum for Snowden until he reaches Ecuador or an Ecuadorian embassy.

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