The trans-Pacific rhetoric on the presence of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden in the international transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport appeared to take on a more strident tone over the weekend as Washington slammed Moscow for allegedly providing Mr. Snowden with a “propaganda platform”.
Hitting back, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the U.S. was “effectively trapping” the fugitive in the airport and argued that Mr. Snowden was initially “flying in transit to other states”. But, the moment Mr. Snowden was in the air, “our American partners... blocked his further flight”. He added that the U.S. had “spooked” other countries and thus nobody wanted to take in Mr. Snowden.
On Friday, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Washington was “disappointed” that Russian officials facilitated a meeting last week between Mr. Snowden and human rights activists at Moscow airport, “despite the government’s declarations of Russia’s neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden”. “He’s not a whistleblower. He’s not a human rights activist. He’s wanted in a series of serious criminal charges brought in the eastern district of Virginia and the United States,” she said.
Earlier, Mr. Putin had offered political asylum to Mr. Snowden provided he agreed to stop releasing NSA documents “harming” U.S. interests, a proposal Mr. Snowden is said to have rejected. Mr. Putin paraphrased his response saying that Mr. Snowden had insisted he wanted to “continue my activity, to fight for human rights and [I] think that U.S. is violating certain international regulations [regarding] intervening in private life and my goal [is] to fight this”.
Later, Mr. Snowden said he would consider Mr. Putin’s proposal if it meant Russia would give him asylum until he could move on to Latin America. He has been granted asylum there by Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.