President Vladimir Putin may have found a way to solve the seemingly unsolvable dilemma about U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden — to expel the ex-CIA official or to spoil relations with Washington.

He may have it both ways — grant political asylum and improve relations with the U.S. Mr. Putin, on Monday, repeated his refusal to hand over Mr. Snowden to the U.S., and for the first time said Mr Snowden could stay in Russia if he stops further disclosures on the U.S. global secret surveillance.

“Russia does not hand over anybody and has no plans to do this in future,” Mr. Putin said on Monday. “If he wants to go somewhere and some country will accept him, he is welcome to do it. If he wants to stay here, he has to meet one condition: stop his activities aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips,” he added.

Russia’s security chief said Moscow and Washington were collaborating in seeking a solution to Mr. Snowden’s fate. Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council said that Mr. Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama had ordered Alexander Bortnikov, Russia’s Federal Security Service head ; and Robert Mueller, FBI director, to stay “in permanent contact” in an attempt to decide Edward Snowden’s fate.

Later came the news that Mr. Snowden had applied for Russian asylum at the consular office at Sheremetyevo airport through his lawyer Sarah Harrison, who had accompanied him on his flight from Hong Kong. “The U.K. citizen Sarah Harrison passed on a request by Edward Snowden to be granted political asylum,” said Kim Shevchenko, a staffer at the airport’s consular office. Ecuador may no longer be an asylum option after its President Rafael Correa revoked his “safe passage” papers following U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's call

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