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June 25, 2013

Putin: Snowden in Transit Zone and Will Not Be Extradited

by VOA News

Russian President Vladimir Putin says former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport, but will not be extradited to the United States.

Speaking during a visit to Finland, Putin dismissed allegations Russia is breaking the law in the case as "nonsense and rubbish.''  He said Russia does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.

Snowden is wanted by the United States for revealing a pair of top secret U.S. surveillance programs and other confidential intelligence, but Putin says he has not broken any laws in Russia.  He said Snowden is a free man and the sooner he chooses a final destination the better.

He also said Snowden has never worked with Russian security agencies. 

Putin said he hopes the affair will not affect relations with Washington.

Earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is not looking for a confrontation and called for "calm and reasonableness" in the Snowden situation.  

Snowden flew Sunday to Moscow from Hong Kong, where he had been in hiding.

Ecuador's foreign minister says Snowden has asked for asylum in his country and his government has been in contact with Moscow.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Russian involvement in Snowden's plans.

"He independently chose his route, and we learned as did everyone else from the mass media," he said.  "He did not cross the Russian border, and we think all of the attempts that were are now witnessing, attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating U.S. law and almost conspiring, accompanied by threats towards us are totally unfounded and unacceptable."

On Monday the White House blasted Beijing for "deliberately" allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong, despite a valid warrant for his arrest.  It said the move "unquestionably" damaged U.S.-China relations.

Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying denied the U.S. accusations.

"U.S. allegations against China are baseless," said Hua.  "China's position over bilateral relations is clear.  It is to the interest of both parties to preserve and strengthen dialogue and cooperation, control disputes and friction, work to bring more progress."