Putin Says Snowden Must Stop Hurting U.S. to Stay in Russia

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MOSCOW -- President Vladimir V. Putin said on Monday that Edward J. Snowden, the former national security staffer accused of espionage, would not receive political asylum in Russia unless he stopped publishing classified documents that hurt the interests of the United States.

At a news conference here, Mr. Putin said that since it appeared Mr. Snowden was going to continue publishing leaks, his chances of staying in Russia were slim. Mr. Putin also pushed back against efforts by the United States to persuade the Russian government to extradite Mr. Snowden, making it clear that Russia would not comply.

"Russia never gives up anyone to anybody and is not planning to," Mr. Putin said.

Mr. Snowden applied for political asylum in Russia late on Sunday night, according to Kim Shevchenko, an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport here. Mr. Shevchenko said Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks activist who is traveling with Mr. Snowden, hand-delivered his request to the consulate in Terminal F of the airport.

Eight days ago, Mr. Snowden arrived on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong, apparently intending to board a connecting flight to Latin America. Since then, Mr. Snowden and Ms. Harrison have become caught in a geopolitical limbo, since Mr. Snowden's American passport has been revoked and he has been unable to leave the transit zone.

With Ecuador, his original destination, evidently wavering, Mr. Snowden's options seem to have narrowed, and his stopover at Sheremetyevo Airport now threatens to stretch into weeks. Mr. Putin referred to this uncertainty on Monday.

"If he wants to go somewhere and they accept him, please, be my guest," he said. "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips."

But Mr. Putin also noted that Mr. Snowden seemed intent on continuing to publish classified documents that damage the United States.

"Because he sees himself as a human rights activist and a freedom fighter for people's rights, apparently he is not intending to cease this work," Mr. Putin said. "So he must choose for himself a country to go to and where to move. When that will happen, I unfortunately don't know."

A Foreign Ministry official told The Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr. Snowden had appealed to 15 countries for political asylum, handing over the paperwork at a Monday morning meeting at the airport. The official characterized the applications as "a desperate measure" on Mr. Snowden's part, after Ecuadorean officials said that the Ecuadorean travel document he is using was invalid.

Mr. Shevchenko said that Mr. Snowden's application for political asylum in Russia had not received a response from the Foreign Ministry as of Monday evening.

It usually takes a month for an application for political asylum to receive an answer from the Russian government, said Vladimir P. Lukin, Russia's human rights commissioner, in an interview.

In mid-June, shortly after Mr. Snowden's identity as the source of disclosures about the American government's widespread collection of private Internet and telephone data, Mr. Putin's press secretary, Dmitri S. Peskov, signaled openness to granting him political asylum, telling a reporter from Kommersant that "if we receive such a request, it will be considered."

But over the week that Mr. Snowden has spent at Sheremetyevo airport, top Russian officials have tried to remain neutral on whether he should be granted asylum, perhaps because they are wary of the damage it would do to their relationship with the United States. Top officials have said the case does not directly involve them, since Mr. Snowden has not passed through immigration control and remains in a part of the airport that is technically not Russian territory.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Mr. Peskov said Mr. Snowden's fate was "not a theme on the Kremlin's agenda."

A series of public figures in Russia have come out in recent days in favor of extending Mr. Snowden political asylum, and on Monday, the question was the subject of a round table at the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body.

"I believe that we should not give him away in any case," said Aleksandr Sidyakin, a prominent member of the majority United Russia Party. "It seems to me that Snowden is the greatest pacifist. This person has done no less to win the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama."

A spokeswoman for the White House said Monday that it had no reaction to Mr. Snowden's asylum request and added that it did not change its position regarding Russia or Mr. Snowden. "Our message is the same to all countries about the need to expel him," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman.

Asked if a decision by Russia to grant Mr. Snowden asylum would upset plans for Mr. Obama to visit in September, she called that "very hypothetical."

"As we've said, we do not want this to have a negative impact on the bilateral relationship, and we want to build on our good law enforcement cooperation, particularly since Boston," Ms. Hayden said, referring to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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