• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:02am
Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden's Moscow sojourn stirs rumours of debriefing by Russians

Rumours of debriefing by Russians swirl as Kremlin bides its time and Washington fumes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 7:45am


  • Yes: 94%
  • No: 6%
25 Jun 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 739

Yes, he’s at a Moscow airport, and no, you can’t have him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the first official acknowledgment of the whereabouts of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday and promptly rejected US pleas to turn him over.

Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend, touching off a global guessing game over where he went and frustrating US efforts to bring him to justice.

Putin said Snowden is in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, meaning he technically is not in Russia and thus is free to travel wherever he wants.

Mr Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him
Russian President Vladimir Putin

After arriving on Sunday on a flight from Hong Kong, Snowden registered for a Havana-bound flight on Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he didn’t board the plane.

Speculation has been rife that Russian security services have been talking to Snowden and might want to keep him in Russia for a more thorough debriefing, but Putin denied that.

“Our special services never worked with Mr Snowden and aren’t working with him today,” Putin said at a news conference during a visit to Finland.

Because Moscow has no extradition agreement with Washington, it cannot meet the US request, he said.

“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 businesslike character of our relations with the US and I hope that our partners will understand that.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the US wants Russia to show respect for the rule of law and comply with common practices when it comes to fugitives from justice.

Video: US Secretary of State John Kerry called for Russia on Tuesday to hand over accused leaker Edward Snowden, saying Washington was not looking for "confrontation".

Putin’s staunch refusal to consider deportation shows his readiness to further challenge Washington at a time when US-Russian relations are already strained over Syria and other issues, including a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans.

“Just showing America that we don’t care about our relations, we are down to basically a cold war pattern: The enemy of your government is our friend,” said Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

“The Russian administration has not come that far, but we don’t know what it’s up to,” she said.

Despite Putin’s denial, security experts believe Russia’s special services wouldn’t miss the chance to question a man who is believed to hold reams of classified US documents and could shed light on how the US intelligence agencies collect information.

Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Global Arms Trade and editor of National Defense Magazine, said Snowden would be of particular interest because little is known about digital espionage.

“The security services would be happy to enter into contact with Mr Snowden,” Korotchenko said.

Russia also has relished using Snowden’s revelations to turn the tables on the US over its criticism of Russia’s rights record.

Putin compared Snowden to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, saying that both men were labelled criminals but consider themselves rights activists and champions of freedom of information.

“Ask yourself a question: Should people like that be extradited so that they put them in prison?” he said. “In any case, I would prefer not to deal with such issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: a lot of squealing and little wool.”

In an apparent reference to claims that Russia could have played a role in Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong, Putin said his arrival in Moscow was a “complete surprise” and dismissed such accusations as “ravings and sheer nonsense”.

“He doesn’t need a visa or any other documents, and as a transit passenger he has the right to buy a ticket and fly wherever he wants,” Putin said.

Russian news media had reported that Snowden remained in a transit zone at the airport, which is separate from regular departure areas. He has not been seen by any of the journalists who have been roaming Sheremetyevo in search of him, furthering speculation that he had been secreted away.

The Interfax news agency, citing an unidentified airport official, said Snowden could be staying in a room in the transit zone normally reserved for flight crews and other personnel.

Legally, an arriving air passenger only crosses the border after clearing Russian immigration checks.

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected the US push to turn over Snowden, but he wouldn’t specify his whereabouts, saying only that he hadn’t crossed the Russian border.

Kerry called for “calm and reasonableness.”

“We would hope that Russia would not side with someone who is a fugitive from justice,” Kerry said at a news conference in Saudi Arabia.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Reader John Adams:
You're terribly naïve with this silly statement: "it's true , we (US) admit it, and you knew it all along."
If the US admitted to violating HK law by spying on our citizens, our Justice Department must enforce the law. It has no choice but to subpoena your NSA scumbags. Yes, we have every right to hold Snowden as material witness and deny extradition. While we have just cause to request extradition, will the US comply with terms bound by treaty?
In the end, it will be all about realpolitik, nothing more and nothing less.
russia should tell the us government to go and take a flying fuxk!!!
John Adams
“Ask yourself a question: Should people like that be extradited so that they put them in prison?” said Putin “In any case, I would prefer not to deal with such issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: a lot of squealing and little wool.”
It's good to know that Russians have a healthy sense of humor ! :-)
PS : If ... IF... only the USA had had the good grace to say : "it's true , we admit it, and you knew it all along ( see today's SCMP op-ed by Martin Murhpy) , and Snowden did nothing other but that to confirm what you always suspected. Naughty boy for breaking his word to BAH, but OK we forgive him " ... then we might respect the USA for its over- zealous efforts in the war against terror even though they snoop on our every email and telecon.
But the USA didn't say that , so they lost our respect, sad to say
hard times !
It sounds like this Big Brother is threatening the public of the world and any nations/places that dare to host /accommodate her so-called fugitive,Mr.Edward Joseph Snowden ( a name that some US departments misspelt !) who,if really committed a crime of stealing government properties---the information/files that he revealed to the whole world in Hong Kong that we,all netizens in the world have long been closey monitored/cyber-spied by the National Security Agency of America which intelligence complexes(thousands of government and priviate institutions) employ millions of employees besides the military-industrial complexes such as Boeing and MD and ...Snowden is just a criminal of conscience only-------committing crimes out of conscience and for the well-beings of his countrymen in America and elsewhere plus all netizens in the whole world by telling them that their messsages on the internet and smart phones are not safe enough since there are two large-scale intelligence agencies spying on them ------the NSA in Meade, America and the GCHQ in the U.K. with every electronic means.
Buying a ticket, but not using it, to throw pursuers off! Sounds like a colleague's story of how his father escaped Germany in 1939!
hard times !
Mr.Snowden is wise and smart enough not to board the planned flight to Cuba as there were so many journalists on board the plane.And as his schedule was widely-known,his security was at great risk indeed.As most people know,the CIAs are everywhere ! Now Mr.Snowden is the most wanted man of the Obama administration.It is wise for him to stay at the transit area of Moscow's airport---never stepping on the soil of Russia which has no extradtion treaty with the Big Brother----America and President Putin has no reason to deport him nor detain/arrest him as he has committed no crimes there (just as he was innocent in our beloved Hong Kong and was free to leave with a valid travel document----our Immigration Dept.never received a notification from the US government that his passport had been revoked !).Well done ! President Putin who never gives in to US pressure ! The world is watching you --how you face the challenge of the No.1 military power in the world !
Mr. Snowden has been to China, and **** Cheney said he is suspicious because China is not a country a man should go to if he is interested in rights and liberty. And now Mr. Snowden stops over in Russia. They blame Russia of alleged complicity. Why the US always play a blame-shifting game, while it's themselves who make the mess?
hard times !
it is so-called, 'the thief yelled," Stop ! Thief !" Right ? ha ! ha !
hard times !
it is okay for our leaker-hero as he has spent over a month hiding in Hong Kong at different places here.It is paramount that Russia won't hand him to his archrival---the arrogant Obama administration which is threatening Hong Kong,China,Russia and those countries which are considering offering a political asylum to Mr.Snowden. Shame on Uncle Sam indeed ! If Snowden is forced to finally stay in Russia,it will be the biggest nightmare for the NSA which up to thousands of files are in his hand---and we can expect more secrets to come out soon ! Just wait and see.
The design of built-in battery in all apple product makes it can be monitored by the US government 24 hours a day.
apple product must have been built in with all sorts of remote monitoring software.



SCMP.com Account