Edward Snowden's attorney says the fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker has not ruled out the possibility of seeking Russian citizenship.
Snowden, 30, is stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport for a fourth week, while seeking temporary asylum in Russia. He has said he eventually wants to head to Latin America, but his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Snowden also told him that he could ask for Russian citizenship.
The United States is demanding that Russia extradite Snowden to stand trial on espionage charges, after he disclosed details of clandestine surveillance programs conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Russia has refused to expel Snowden, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow's relations with the United States are more important than the dispute over Snowden.
"Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services,'' Putin said.
Russia is considering Snowden's bid for temporary asylum. Putin said his country, though, would not tolerate Snowden leaking further information damaging to the United States.
"We warned Mr. Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russia-American relations is unacceptable for us,'' he said.
Kucherena predicted temporary asylum would be approved within the next few days, and that Snowden would be able to leave the airport.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday there is "ample legal justification" for Moscow to return Snowden to the United States to face charges of "serious felonies." Carney said Washington does not want its relations with Moscow to be affected by the dispute.
Snowden applied Tuesday to stay temporarily in Russia, though he said he still eventually wants to travel to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua, which have offered him asylum. But the United States has revoked his passport.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.