MOSCOW: The United States has trapped the former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden on Russian territory by frightening other countries that might have accepted his asylum request, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“They themselves scared off all the other countries, no one wants to take him, and therefore they essentially themselves trapped him on our territory,” Putin told an audience of students on Monday.
“As soon as there is an opportunity for him to move elsewhere, I hope he will do that. He is familiar with the conditions of granting political asylum, and judging by the latest statements, is shifting his position. The situation is not clear now,” he added.
The leaker, who is staying in the transit area of Moscow main international airport, has been charged with espionage for allegedly disclosing secret US government spying programs.
The Russian president also expressed his anger over Washington’s policies regarding Snowden, who arrived in Russia from Hong Kong on June 23.
“He arrived on our territory uninvited, he did not fly to us, he was flying transit to other countries,” Putin said. “But as soon as he was in the air, it became known, and our American partners essentially blocked off his further flight.”
Putin also noted that Snowden was winding down his “political activity” against the US. He previously said he would grant Snowden asylum if he stopped “his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners.”
The United States has been pressing Russia not to grant asylum to Snowden. Washington has also been pressuring other countries not to take him, particularly in Latin America, where Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have said they are willing to grant him asylum.