Russia repudiated American
accusations of flouting demands to help capture Edward Snowden
after criticism by U.S. officials for allowing the former
security contractor to transit through Moscow.
Snowden, who arrived in the Russian capital on a commercial
flight from Hong Kong on June 23, independently chose his route
and didn’t cross the country’s border, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today in the first comments by a
senior Russian official on the case. There’s “no legal
justification” for U.S. demands to extradite him, he said,
declining to comment on Snowden’s location.
Russia, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the
U.S., has refused to assist a global manhunt for the fugitive
whistleblower as American intelligence agencies mount an
investigation into a possible role by China in Snowden’s leaks.
Snowden’s whereabouts remain publicly unknown two days after he
landed in Sheremetyevo Airport, missing yesterday’s flight to
Havana for which he had booked tickets on OAO Aeroflot.
“We have nothing to do with Mr. Snowden, neither with his
relationship to U.S. justice nor to his travel across the
world,” Lavrov said. “We consider absolutely groundless and
unacceptable attempts that we see to accuse Russia of violating
U.S. laws and even of a conspiracy, accompanied by threats
toward us. There is no legal justification for this type of
behavior by American officials and we have conveyed this to the
Secretary of State John Kerry said today the U.S. isn’t
seeking a “confrontation” with Russia over the issue even as
he reiterated American determination to gain custody of Snowden.
Kerry made an appeal for “calm and reasonableness,” reacting
to what he called a “strong statement” by Lavrov.
“They certainly can allow him to be subject to the laws of
our land,” Kerry said of Russia during a joint briefing in
Jeddah with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal. “That’s what
we call on them to do.”
While Lavrov was accurate in saying there is no extradition
treaty between the U.S. and Russia, “there are standards of
behavior between sovereign nations,” Kerry said.
Speaking in New Delhi yesterday, the top American diplomat
urged Russia to abide by the standards of the law by expelling
Snowden to the U.S., warning both Russia and China of
“consequences” for their actions.
Russia, which has fought American efforts to extradite its
citizens around the world, hasn’t responded to U.S. pleas to
hand over Snowden a month after he fled and revealed National
Security Agency surveillance of Americans and foreign citizens.
Speaking 10 days before Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong,
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former colonel in the KGB,
said “he told us nothing we didn’t know before” and said he
saw nothing objectionable in putting individuals and
organizations under lawful surveillance.
“It’s becoming a global phenomenon in the context of
combating international terrorism, and such methods are
generally called for,” Putin said during an interview with
Kremlin-backed RT television channel on June 13, according to
the official transcript. “The question is how well they are
controlled by the public.”
Snowden’s U.S. passport has been revoked, according to an
American official who spoke on condition of anonymity. He faces
as many as 10 years in prison on the theft count and 10 years on
each of two espionage charges.
Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group
WikiLeaks, said Snowden was “healthy and safe.” He declined to
give Snowden’s current location on a conference call with
Snowden intended to take safe passage through Russia and
other nations to Ecuador, Assange said. WikiLeaks legal advisers
helped draft Snowden’s asylum request to Ecuador, Assange said,
adding it was possible that Snowden had drafted requests for
The former contractor may be detained by Russian
authorities to clear up all circumstances surrounding his
arrival in Moscow and determine the legality of his passport,
Interfax reported today, citing an unidentified person with
knowledge of the matter.
Snowden has a refugee document of passage issued by Ecuador
that enabled him to leave Hong Kong, Assange said.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Henry Meyer in Moscow at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Balazs Penz at
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images