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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs