In defiance to the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin bluntly rejected the US’ pleas to extradite National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden on Tuesday, saying Snowden is a free man, free to travel wherever he wants, and insists that security agencies in Russia haven’t contacted the leaker.
Putin said Snowden is in the transit zone of an airport in Moscow, and has not passed through Russian immigration. It means that technically, the whistleblower is not in Russia.
After leaving Hong Kong last weekend, Snowden arrived at the Moscow airport Sunday. He then booked another flight to Havana, Cuba from Moscow on Monday en route to Venezuela. His final destination is possibly Ecuador where he is expected to seek asylum.
Reports of Snowden’s whereabouts have not been clear until Putin’s comments shed a light on the mystery. Speculations about Russian security agencies wanting to keep Snowden in Russia for a more thorough debriefing abound, but Putin denied it.
“Our special services never worked with Mr. Snowden and aren’t working with him today,” said Putin, who was currently visiting Finland.
Putin cited the lack of an extradition treaty with the US as its basis for not giving in to the requests of the White House.
“Mr. Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him,” Putin said. “I hope it will not affect the business-like character of our relations with the U.S. and I hope that our partners will understand that.”