Edward Snowden, the man who recently leaked details of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, is currently in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to extradite Snowden to the U.S.
As CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported Monday night, the White House has been pressuring Russia to send Snowden back before he can find asylum elsewhere.
Snowden’s next stop is being speculated, and he was once again absent for a flight to Cuba Tuesday morning. Putin said that Snowden hasn’t yet crossed the Russian border and is free to go anywhere.
“He arrived as a transit passenger. He does not need a visa or any other documents. As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a ticket and fly wherever he wants. He did not cross the state border, therefore he does not need a visa,” Putin said.
During a visit to Finland Tuesday, Putin also dismissed U.S. accusations over this matter as “ravings and rubbish,” and dispelled notions that Russian security agencies are aiding Snowden, stating that, “Our special services have never worked with Mr. Snowden and are not working with him today.”
Regarding a U.S. request to extradite him, Putin said that Russia doesn’t have an extradition agreement with the U.S. and therefore wouldn’t honor the U.S. request. American officials have been cautious by stating that they are not seeking a formal extradition, but instead have insisted that Snowden be expelled from Russia. Putin gave no signal that he would be doing that either.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also refused U.S. demands to extradite Snowden, stating similarly that Snowden hadn’t crossed the Russian border and insisted that Russia has nothing to do with him, his relations with U.S. justice or his travel plans.
“He chose his itinerary on his own,” Lavrov insisted on Snowden. “He has not crossed the Russian border.” Lavrov added that accusations against Russia of “violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy” in regards to Snowden is “absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable.”
However, Putin voiced hope that Snowden will depart as quickly as possible and that his stopover at Moscow’s airport wouldn’t affect bilateral ties.
Similarly, during a stop in Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State John Kerry replied by stating that the U.S. is not looking for a confrontation with Russia. Speaking in Jiddah, Kerry said that while it’s true the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Russia, Moscow should comply with common law practices concerning fugitives between nations.
“I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness,” Kerry said. “We would hope that Russia would not side with someone who is a fugitive from justice.”
According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Snowden is traveling with a WikiLeaks representative and he’s in good spirits. Snowden has not been seen or publicly photographed since his arrival in Moscow on Sunday. Snowden’s assumed plan was to fly to Cuba and then make his way to Ecuador for possible political asylum. Snowden had also previously discussed seeking asylum in Iceland.
U.S. officials thought they cornered in Snowden in Hong Kong, but officials in China said the arrest request from Washington was flawed, and Snowden was allowed to leave Sunday and make his way to Russia.
Snowden’s eventual destination is not clear, but the Ecuadorian government has confirmed that he has applied for asylum there. Other possible travel stops for Snowden include Venezuela, Cuba, and Iceland.
Snowden has four laptops with him containing the U.S. government's most sensitive secrets.