Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday firmly defended his decision to grant asylum to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and urged the United States to take the move in its stride. “We can’t behave like other countries. Russia has an independent foreign policy and we’re going to keep it that way,” Mr. Putin said in his first comment on Mr. Snowden’s asylum request.
He called on the U.S. to get the Snowden case behind it and keep bilateral ties on track. “I hope our [U.S.] partners will appreciate this [the Russian stand] and react calmly [and] with understanding. Inter-State relations, in my view, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of secret services.” There are fears that Russian asylum for the former U.S. intelligence analyst could jeopardise U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Moscow in September.
Mr. Snowden, stuck for more than three weeks at a Moscow airport without travel documents, filed his formal application for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday accepting Mr. Putin’s condition for living in Russia — “stop harming our U.S. partner.”
Asked how the Kremlin would control Mr. Snowden’s compliance, Mr. Putin said: “I won’t give you the details. We have warned Mr. Snowden that any activity of his that could damage Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us.”
Speaking to journalists in the Siberian city of Chita, Mr. Putin could not deny himself the pleasure of taking a dig at Washington’s intrusive support for human rights in other countries. “Human rights activity has its downside for those who engage it. It can be quite comfortable when pursued under the tutelage of the U.S. and with its financial, information [and] political support, when somebody wants to criticise the U.S., he may have problems as the incidentw ith the Bolivian President’s plane has shown.”