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July 17, 2013

Putin: Relations with US More Important than Snowden Dispute

by VOA News

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow's relations with the United States are more important than a dispute over fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Putin's comments Wednesday come a day after Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia. The former National Security Agency contractor has been holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport since June 23.

The U.S. wants Russia to send him home to face charges of espionage related to the release of classified information on U.S. intelligence programs.

Putin did not say whether Russia would grant Snowden's request. But he said bilateral relations are "far more important than squabbles surrounding the work of security services."

He also reiterated his stance that Snowden is welcome to stay in Russia, but only if he stops leaking information that is damaging to the United States.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said there is "ample legal justification" for Moscow to return Snowden to the United States to face charges of "serious felonies." He said he does not want U.S.-Russia relations to be affected by the dispute.

Snowden applied Tuesday to stay temporarily in Russia, though he still wants to eventually travel to Latin America, where leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered him asylum. But he is blocked from leaving Moscow as the U.S. has revoked his passport.

The 30-year-old has leaked a flurry of top-secret documents that have revealed U.S. domestic and international spying operations.