MOSCOW -- The Kremlin will not allow NSA leaker Edward Snowden to harm the United States for the duration of his temporary stay in Russia, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.
“While he is here no one will allow him to indulge in any activities aimed against the United States,” Dmitry Peskov said in a telephone interview Saturday morning. “At the same time he is free to meet with whoever and whenever he wants.”
Snowden’s activities in Russia thus will not add tension to U.S.-Russian relations, Peskov implied.
On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing in Washington that “the unauthorized release of classified information … is harmful to the national security interests of the United States,” responding to a question whether the U.S. was talking to Germany about Snowden’s recent steps to appeal to that country for help.
“The crimes with which he’s charged are very serious, and it’s certainly our view that the right thing to do in this case is for him to return, or be returned, to the United States to face those charges and to have his day in court.”
Earlier on Friday, German leftist lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele made public an open letter handed to him by the former NSA contractor during a meeting in Moscow this week.
In the letter Snowden said that he would like to testify before Congress about the National Security Agency's illegal actions and sounded willing to cooperate with German officials to investigate alleged U.S. snooping in Germany, Stroebele told a news conference in Berlin.
Russia cannot be held responsible for any new leaks associated with Snowden as he left all his archive in Hong Kong before coming to Russia, Peskov said.
“His meeting with somebody in Moscow cannot harm the United States,” he said. “As for the materials which keep appearing in mass media, we are talking about the materials he handed over to some third persons or journalists or whoever else before he made his appearance on the territory of Russia.
“He was granted the status of a temporary refuge, which doesn’t impose restrictions on his meeting with anybody,” Peskov said.
However Peskov implied that the Kremlin would prefer the continuing international fuss around Snowden to subside.
“We could well do without that … as we don’t want it to be happening, but since it is out there it is out there.” he said. “You see, Snowden is not the booty of Russian special services as he is not a Russian agent either, and it was not Russia who invited or brought him here. As you know he emerged here as a kind of uninvited and unexpected guest.”
Peskov said that Snowden could leave Russia whenever he wishes. “He is not detained, he is not a prisoner, he is not a criminal,” he said. “Even in the United States he is not a criminal. He can leave Russia at any moment and we can’t dictate to him when and where to go and we cannot be held responsible for it.”
But a senior political scientist in Russia offered a different take. The Kremlin keeps working on promoting its international prestige and “if they could do so at the expense of slightly hurting the image of the United States they would go ahead and do it without much of a second thought,” said Viktor Kremenyuk.
“In place of Obama I wouldn’t be trusting the Kremlin on keeping their word about preventing Snowden from lashing out at the United States from time to time,” Kremenyuk, deputy director of the U.S.A. and Canada Institute, a Moscow-based think tank, said Friday in an interview with The Times. “In his situation, Snowden cannot really meet and talk with any foreign visitor in Moscow without the Kremlin’s sanction or even some encouragement.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Saturday that should Snowden leave Russia he would automatically lose his status of temporary asylum there.
As of Nov. 1, Snowden is employed by a big Russian Internet company that offered him a sufficient salary, Kucherena said. The name of the company and Snowden’s whereabouts remain undisclosed for safety reasons, Kucherena said.
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