Zee Media Bureau
Finland: Defusing the mystery over whereabouts of NSA leaker Edward, President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that the US whistleblower was in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and would not be extradited to the United States.
Putin said that Russia doesn’t have an extradition agreement with the US and thus wouldn’t meet the US request of extraditing Snowden.
Putin’s announcement came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow had nothing to do with Edward Snowden’s movement and that he hadn’t crossed Russian border.
Putin also confirmed Lavrov’s statement saying, “Snowden hasn’t crossed the Russian border and is free to go anywhere”.
Speaking on a visit to Finland Tuesday, he added that Russian security agencies ‘‘didn’t work and aren’t working’’ with Snowden. He gave no more details.
He voiced hope that Snowden will depart as quickly as possible and that his stopover at Moscow’s airport wouldn’t affect bilateral ties.
Earlier speaking at a press conference, Foreign Minister Lavrow slammed the US for its comments against Russia in wake of the reports of Edward Snowden landing in Moscow from Hong Kong.
"He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it ... from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border," said Lavrov.
"We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world," Mr Lavrov said.
Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament also slammed the reports of Snowden being in Russia.
He tweeted, "Where did this theory come from that Snowden is in Russia? No one saw him on the Hong Kong flight and no one saw him at the airport”.
Terming the US statements as "groundless and unacceptable", Lavrov said that Russia had nothing to do with Snowden’s globe-trotting.
"We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating US laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable."
Snowden booked a seat on a Havana-bound flight from Moscow on Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he didn’t board the plane.
Russian news media have reported that he has remained in a transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, but journalists there haven’t seen him.
A representative of WikiLeaks has been traveling with Snowden, and the organization is believed to be assisting him in arranging asylum. The organization’s founder, Julian Assange, said Monday that Snowden was only passing through Russia and had applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries.
Snowden abandoned his job in Hawaii and went to Hong Kong on May 20 to begin issuing a series of leaks on the NSA gathering of phone call logs and Internet data, triggering concern from governments around the world. The programs collect vast amounts of Americans` phone records and worldwide online data in the name of national security.
Snowden acknowledged revealing details of the classified NSA surveillance program causing huge embarrassment to President Barack Obama`s administration. The leaks forced Obama`s administration to defend US intelligence agencies` practice of gathering huge amounts of telephone and Internet data from private users around the world.
The Justice department of the US government later charged him with espionage and theft of government property in the NSA surveillance case.
The United States formally sought Snowden`s extradition but was rebuffed by Hong Kong officials who said the US request did not fully comply with their laws.
With Agency Inputs