MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Edward Snowden, the alleged leaker of NSA surveillance secrets, can stay in Russia as long as he stops harming American 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 told reporters.
But Putin also qualified his comments, saying that it appears the NSA leaker has no plans to stop his work and therefore should pick a final destination soon.
Snowden has been holed up in Moscow’s Sheremedevo International Airport for over a week, unable to travel after the State Department canceled his passport. He also appears to have few safe places to go, with routes to possible political asylum in Ecuador blocked.
Putin’s comments came amid reports that Snowden had recently applied for political asylum in several countries as his options dwindle, including in Russia.
A Russian immigration official confirmed to ABC News a New York Times report that WikiLeaks member Sarah Harrison, who is traveling with Snowden, came to him with the application late Sunday. Earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported that Snowden handed Russian officials applications for asylum in 15 countries.
Putin, speaking earlier today, stood by his previous refusal to extradite Snowden to the United States.
“Russia never extradites anyone anywhere and is not going to extradite anyone. No one ever extradites anyone to us,” he said, adding that Snowden “is a free man.”
Putin also denied that Snowden was working with Russian intelligence.
“He is not our agent, he is not cooperating with us,” he said.
A spokesperson for Putin told Russia’s Interfax news agency that he did not have enough information on the asylum request to comment.