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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.