WASHINGTON: US officials have warned Russia against giving refuge to the former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, after reports that he has been given documents to leave Moscow’s main airport.
Russian media reported on Wednesday that Snowden, charged with espionage in the US after exposing classified programs that collect telephone and Internet data from US citizens and other nationals, had been given documents that would allow him to leave Moscow’s main international airport.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said in a blunt warning to Russia that Moscow is provoking a diplomatic crisis with its reported granting of refuge to Snowden.
“I repeat my message to Russia that providing any refuge to Edward Snowden will be harmful to US-Russia relations,” Menendez said in a statement sent to the Los Angeles Times.
“Edward Snowden is a fugitive who should be prosecuted in the US for the serious allegations of espionage. Snowden remains in possession of sensitive documents, and for Russia or any nation to grant him asylum or safe passage directly concerns our national security priorities,” he added.
Russian officials are resisting US calls to extradite the intelligence leaker, saying the US has repeatedly ignored Russia’s extradition requests.