Obama criticises Russia for harbouring Edward Snowden
The US president, Barack Obama, has criticised Russia’s decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Obama said: “The US was extremely disappointed that Russia granted temporary asylum to Snowden, instead of sending the former government contractor back to the US to face espionage charges.”
30-year-old Snowden left the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport where he had been living for nearly six weeks after arriving from Hong Kong on 23rd June and is now officially living in Russia.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, stated that his whereabouts will be kept a secret for security reasons.
Commenting on Russia’s decision, the White House said the decision “was not a positive development for US-Russia relations and it undermines Russia’s record of law enforcement co-operation with the Americans”.
Barack Obama is re-evaluating whether he should attend an upcoming summit with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in St Petersburg in September.
The US had demanded that Russia send Snowden, an ex-NSA systems analyst, home to face prosecution for espionage over leaks that revealed highly secretive government surveillance programs, a request denied by Mr Putin.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and private that Mr Snowden be expelled and returned to the US.”
In his application for asylum, Snowden mentioned that he feared he could face torture or capital punishment if he was to return to the US. In a statement released to Wikileaks, he thanked Russia and criticised the Obama administration.
Snowden said: “Over the past eight weeks, we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning. I thank the Russian federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”
Snowden’s one-year asylum could be extended indefinitely, and he also has the right to apply for Russian citizenship. However, according to the rules set by the Kremlin, a person with temporary asylum would lose it if he or she travels abroad.
Mr Kucherena added that his client “has no such plans. But, it would be up to Mr Snowden to decide whether he wants to travel to any foreign destination”.