Putin Says Snowden At Moscow Airport, Rejects Extradition
June 25, 2013
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied that his country has any connection to fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
"I would like to say right away that we do not have anything to do either with Mr. Snowden or with his issues with American law enforcement or with his movement around the world," Lavrov told reporters at a press conference with Algerian Foreign Minister Murad Medelsi in Moscow on June 25.
"We find all the attempts we are witnessing now -- attempts to accuse Russia of violating U.S. laws or practically of conspiring somehow, sometimes even accompanied by threats against us -- absolutely baseless and unacceptable," Lavrov added.
The exact location of Snowden, who reportedly flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23, remains unclear.
Lavrov's comments about Snowden's whereabouts did not shed any light on the matter.
"He has chosen his itinerary on his own," he said. "We have learned about it, just like most of you here, from the media. He has not crossed Russia's borders."
Lavrov but did not clarify whether that simply meant the fugitive is still in a transit area at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport.
Earlier this month, Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper and "The Washington Post" cited documents provided by Snowden to reveal a vast U.S. government effort to collect and monitor the phone and Internet data of millions of people in America and around the world.
Kerry Calls For Calm
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has said the surveillance programs have congressional and judicial oversight and have helped to thwart as many as 50 terrorist plots, some of them aimed at targets in the United States.
Speaking on a visit to Saudi Arabia on June 22, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Russian authorities to be "calm" and said there was no need to raise the level of confrontation with Moscow over Snowden.
Kerry also indicated that he hoped Russia did not believe its interest lay in siding with a fugitive from justice.
On June 25, Kerry told reporters during a visit to India that there would be consequences for U.S. relations with countries that help or harbor Snowden and called on Russia to cooperate in extraditing Snowden back to the United States.
"I would urge [the Russian authorities] to live by the standards of the law because that's in the interests of everybody," he said. "In the last two years we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted. So I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important."
Last week, U.S. authorities charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and the willful communication of classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
Each of the three charges carries a maximum 10-year prison penalty following a conviction.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS and AFP
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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