The alleged source behind each of these headline-grabbing reports, 30-year-old Edward Snowden, was last believed to be hiding out in the transit area of a Moscow airport and in the eye of a complex diplomatic storm.
The U.S. has revoked his passport and charged him with espionage. Hong Kong, where Snowden revealed himself as the leaker last month, has already been blasted by the U.S. for allowing him to leave there.
Putin last week denied strongly-worded U.S. requests to arrest Snowden and turn him over, saying Snowden was a "free person" and technically hadn't entered Russia. Still, Putin indicated he wanted Snowden out of his hands quickly, saying it would better for him and for Russia if he would go.
At the time, it was reported that Snowden had been given refugee travel documents by the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, meaning he wouldn't have to rely on his U.S. passport, but over the weekend Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said the issuing of the document was a "serious error" committed without consultation with his government in Quito.
Snowden was originally believed to have planned to fly from Moscow to Cuba and from there to Ecuador, which was one of some 15 different countries to which he applied for asylum. But Snowden has missed several flights to Havana already and has not been seen by reporters on the ground in Moscow.
Today Putin said that Snowden would be allowed to stay in Russia, but only as long as he stops harming U.S. interests.
"If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He has to stop his work aimed at damaging our U.S. partners, no matter how strange this sounds coming from me," Putin said.
A Russian official confirmed to ABC News that Snowden has applied for political asylum there, one of a reported 15 countries Snowden apparently will help him out of his conundrum. The New York Times reported the application had not yet been received by Russia's foreign ministry.
The U.S. State Department today dismissed the idea that Snowden was trapped in the Russian airport and said he is free to come back to the U.S. to face a "free and fair trial."
"We reject the notion that this is some sort of political prosecution, indeed, it's not," State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell told reporters. "He's still a U.S. citizen. He still enjoys the rights of his U.S. citizenship, which include the right to a free and fair trial for the crimes he's been accused of [committing]."
Putin reiterated that Russia has no plans to extradite Snowden and said again that his security service is not working with or cooperating with Snowden.
U.S. officials told ABC News last month that they feared first Chinese and then Russian intelligence agents would gain access to Snowden's trove of secrets.
The head of the Russian Security Council told a Russian television station today that President Obama and President Putin have decided that their respective internal security services, the FBI and FSB, would be the ones to sort out what's to be done about Snowden.
ABC News' James Gordon Meek and Dana Hughes contributed to this report.