Edward Snowden

Russia hits out at US record on extradition

Statement seen as way to prepare the ground for granting Snowden asylum in Russia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 3:18am

Russian officials have complained that the United States routinely disregards extradition requests by the Russian government, the latest in a series of public statements that seem aimed at laying the groundwork for granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor on the run from US authorities.

In separate but apparently co-ordinated statements on Monday, officials from the Russian Interior Ministry and the prosecutor general's office complained that the US had refused to extradite individuals sought by Russia as suspected terrorists or on serious criminal charges.

"The United States is repeatedly refusing Russia to extradite individuals, to hold them criminally liable, including those accused of committing serious or heinous crimes," Sergei Gorlenko, the acting chief of the prosecutor general's extradition office, told the Interfax news agency. "We have been denied the extradition of murderers, bandits and bribe takers," he said.

The Interior Ministry accused the US of "double standards" in demanding Snowden's return. The prosecutor general's office said the US had refused to extradite about 20 suspects over the past decade, citing the lack of an extradition treaty - the same reason senior Kremlin officials have given in saying they have no plan to repatriate Snowden.

Snowden - who faces criminal espionage charges for leaking classified information about the National Security Agency's surveillance programmes - has requested temporary asylum in Russia and has accused the US of violating international law by blocking him from travelling to Latin America, where three countries have expressed a willingness to take him.

A decision on Snowden's application for temporary asylum by officials from the Federal Migration Service could come any day.

While President Vladimir Putin is widely believed to have the ultimate say over Snowden's request, applications for temporary asylum technically do not need the president's personal approval and are routinely granted directly by the Federal Migration Service.

The Obama administration has been pressing Russia to detain Snowden and send him to Washington. In recent days officials have sent signals that President Barack Obama is considering cancelling a planned summit meeting in Moscow in September, frustrated by the Snowden case as well as by disagreements over human rights and how to end the civil war in Syria.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said that it does not want Snowden's case to harm bilateral relations but also has shown no willingness to turn him over to American authorities.

"This position remains unchanged," a Putin spokesman said over the weekend.