TURKU – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden was still in a transit zone at a Moscow airport and the sooner he selected his final destination the better.
“He is a transit passenger in the transit zone and is still there now…. Mr Snowden is a free man. The sooner he selects his final destination point, the better both for us and for himself,” Putin told a news conference in Finland.
“He came as a transit passenger and he does not need a visa or other documents. As a transit passenger he has the right to buy a ticket and fly where he wants,” said Putin.
Putin emphasised that Snowden had not violated Russian laws: “He did not cross state borders and therefore does not need a visa.”
Appearing to reject calls from Washington for Snowden to be handed over, he noted that Russia has no extradition agreement with the United States.
“As far as his possible handover is concerned, we can only hand over certain citizens to nations with which we have corresponding international agreements about the handover of criminals.”
“We have no such agreement with the United States,” Putin said.
Putin described Snowden’s arrival as completely unexpected for Moscow and dismissed accusations that Russia had helped his flight as “nonsense and rubbish”.
“It is true that Mr Snowden came to Moscow. For us, this was completely unexpected,” Putin told reporters.
“Any accusations against Russia on this are nonsense and rubbish,” he said after Washington appeared to criticise Russia’s behaviour.
Putin also dismissed suggestions that Russian intelligence had been working with Snowden, who some analysts had said was a potential intelligence goldmine for Russia.
“Our secret services never worked with Mr. Snowden and are not working with him today,” he said.