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Russia: Putin says US whistleblower free to leave Russia

26th Jun 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that US whistleblower Edward Snowden remains in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. Putin denied allegations that Russian intelligence agencies had worked with Snowden.

Russian President Putin told reporters during a trip to Finland on Tuesday that Moscow does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and therefore would not hand over the whistleblower Snowden to Washington.

“He came as a transit passenger and he does not need a visa or other documents,” Putin said. “As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a ticket and fly where he wants.”

“The sooner he selects his final destination point, the better both for us and for him,” the Russian president said.

Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State John Kerry had called on Russian authorities to turn over the former National Security Agency contractor, who leaked the existence of a mass electronic surveillance program called PRISM.

“I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness in a moment where we don’t need to raise the level of confrontation over something as, frankly, basic and normal as this,” Kerry told reporters during a trip to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

“We’re not looking for a confrontation; we’re not ordering anybody,” the secretary of state continued. “We’re simply requesting under a very normal procedure.”

Snowden has applied for political asylum in the South American nation of Ecuador. Quito has said that it is still considering the application.

US-China tensions over Snowden

On Sunday, Snowden fled from Hong Kong to Moscow, raising tensions between the US and China. The US State Department revoked Snowden’s passport over the weekend, making it unclear what travel documentation he is using to cross international borders.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Snowden is using a “refugee document of passage” issued by Ecuador to travel. Wikileaks has been helping Snowden, providing him with financial and legal support.

“This was a deliberate choice by the [Chinese] government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Beijing, for its part, has vigorously denied allegations that it allowed Snowden to flee from Hong Kong to Moscow.

“It is unreasonable for the US to question Hong Kong’s handling of affairs in accordance with law, and the accusation against the Chinese central government is groundless,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

In addition to leaking the existence of the PRISM surveillance program, Snowden also claimed that the US had been mounting cyber attacks against the Chinese government and corporations.

For months, the US has been accusing China of hacking American corporations and government computer networks.

slk/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)



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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013

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