MOSCOW -- President Vladimir V. Putin signaled on Wednesday that he expected the broader bilateral relationship with the United States to be unharmed if Russia granted asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor on the run from the American authorities.
In reply to a question about the implications of Mr. Snowden's case for relations with the United States, Mr. Putin effectively accused Washington of hypocrisy by providing robust support for human rights advocates in other circumstances but not in a case like Mr. Snowden's, in which the United States is being criticized.
"Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are much more important than the squabbles around the activities of the security services," Mr. Putin said while on a visit to the Trans-Baikal region in eastern Siberia to review a military training exercise, according to a Kremlin transcript.
Mr. Putin and other prominent Russian officials have made clear that they view Mr. Snowden as an advocate for human rights and a crusader for personal liberties for his leaks exposing the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
Mr. Snowden formally applied on Tuesday for temporary asylum in Russia -- a request that could be granted within days and allow him to live and work here for a year or more.
Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer and rights advocate advising Mr. Snowden in Moscow, confirmed on Wednesday that Mr. Snowden may be able to leave the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow and enter Russia through passport control in the next several days, once the Federal Migration Service gives him official confirmation that his application for temporary asylum is under review.
He said that Mr. Snowden had decided to pursue temporary asylum after realizing the United States was determined not to let him travel. "I expected that they could persecute me, but I didn't expect it to be so crude, so out of measure," Mr. Kucherena quoted Mr. Snowden as saying. "They have completely driven me into a corner."
Mr. Snowden chose to apply for temporary asylum to circumvent the bureaucracy associated with applications for political asylum, which can take up to three months to process, Mr. Kucherena said.
If he entered Russia, Mr. Snowden would have the freedom to choose where to live and would not have to surrender himself to the Russian authorities, Mr. Kucherena added.
He said that Mr. Snowden "had not excluded the possibility" of applying for Russian citizenship, but that he had no such plans currently.
Mr. Putin has said asylum for Mr. Snowden is a possibility if he stops harming America's interests.
"We warned Mr. Snowden that any of his activities that cause damage to U.S.-Russian relations are unacceptable to us," Mr. Putin said Wednesday.
"Human rights work is generally associated with certain costs for those who do it," he added. "When such activities are conducted under the auspices of the United States and with their financial support, information and political backing, it is comfortable enough to do. But if someone is going to criticize the United States itself, it is, of course, much more complicated." Mr. Putin pointed to the efforts in Europe to block the plane of President Evo Morales of Bolivia because of fears that Mr. Snowden was on board.
But Mr. Putin also expressed some bewilderment about Mr. Snowden's ultimate goals.
"He's a young man," Mr. Putin said. "In fact, I do not even really understand how he intends to continue to build his life. But it was his destiny and his choice. And we have our own national objectives."
He added: "Russia has an independent foreign policy, and we will implement it. I hope that our partners understand and react to this with calm, understanding."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.