News / Europe

Russia's Putin Puts US Ties Above Snowden

Russia's President Vladimir Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin
Reuters
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday gave his clearest signal yet that he will not let a dispute over the fate of former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden derail Russia's relations with the United States.

But a lawyer assisting Snowden, who is stuck in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and wanted by Washington for leaking details of U.S. intelligence programs, said he expected Russia to grant him temporary asylum within a week.

The Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, also said Snowden had no plans to leave soon for any of the three Latin American countries that are offering him refuge because of U.S. pressure on its allies to bar his way.

Allowing Snowden, 30, to stay in Russia even temporarily would upset Washington. But a refusal would open Putin to criticism at home that he has not stood up to Moscow's former Cold War enemy, even though he has refused to expel Snowden to the United States to face espionage charges.

Asked during a visit to the eastern Siberian town of Chita whether the affair would cast a shadow over a U.S.-Russia summit due in September in Moscow, Putin told reporters: “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services.”

Putin did not say whether Russia would grant Snowden's  temporary asylum request, filed on Tuesday after more than three weeks at Sheremetyevo, but reiterated that he must agree to do nothing to harm the United States.

“We warned Mr. Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us,” the former KGB spy said.

Snowden, who arrived after fleeing Hong Kong on June 23, is useful as a propaganda tool for Putin, who accuses the United States of preaching to the world about rights and freedoms it does not uphold at home.

But Putin wants the September meeting with Obama, and a G20 summit due to follow it in St Petersburg, to go smoothly and would not want to risk a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the southern Russian city of Sochi next February.

Both countries have signaled they want to improve ties, strained by issues ranging from the Syrian conflict to Putin's treatment of opponents and Western-funded non-governmental organizations since he started a third term in 2012.

Unwelcome guest

Kucherena said he expected a positive response to Snowden's request for temporary asylum in Russia so that he can stay until he is sure of safe passage to another country. Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered him sanctuary.

“The grounds that he cited in the application...hardly allow for a refusal of asylum,” he told reporters. “He has no plans to go elsewhere (immediately). He can't go anywhere, even if he gets a valid passport.”

Asked whether Snowden might apply for Russian citizenship, Kucherena said, “He does not rule it out”.

He said he had given Snowden a children's Russian ABC book to get him started learning the language.

Kucherena quoted Snowden as saying he had expected to be persecuted but had been surprised by the “excessive, disproportionate” response.

Putin has accused the United States of trapping Snowden, but Russia has kept the former contractor at arm's length by saying it regards the transit area between the runway and passport control as neutral territory.

President Barack Obama's administration on Tuesday repeated its call for Russia to send Snowden back to the United States, saying he was not a human rights activist or dissident and was accused of leaking classified information.

In Russia, temporary asylum is granted for a year and can be extended. Unlike political asylum, which would require a decree from Putin, the decision to grant temporary asylum is officially up to the Federal Migration Service (FMS).

The FMS has three months to decide but Kucherena told Reuters he expected Snowden to able to leave Sheremetyevo within a week and that Snowden had given him a verbal promise that he would stop anti-U.S. activities.

But a human rights activist who attended a meeting with Snowden on Friday said the American did not regard his leaks as harmful to his home country. Snowden has said that he was acting in U.S. interests, not against them.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs