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Putin: Snowden gets asylum if he stops leaking U.S. secrets

MOSCOW — Russia's President Vladimir Putin said Monday that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wants to get asylum in Russia but added that Snowden has no plan to quit doing so.

President Barack Obama said there have been high-level discussions between the U.S. and Russia about Snowden's extradition, but Putin repeated that Russia has no intention of sending Snowden back to the United States.

Putin insisted that Snowden isn't a Russian agent and that Russian security agencies haven't contacted him. Speaking at a news conference, Putin said that Snowden considers himself a rights activist, a "new dissident," and compared him to Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.

Meanwhile Snowden broke his silence Monday for the first time since he flew to Moscow eight days ago, issuing a statement that denounced Barack Obama for revoking his passport, opposing his asylum requests and leaving him a "stateless person."

In the statement posted on WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group that has been assisting him, Snowden, 30, also accused Obama and the U.S. government of seeking to intimidate him and deceive the world because of his disclosures about U.S. intelligence agencies' surveillance programs.

Snowden has been caught in legal limbo in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The U.S. has annulled his passport, and Ecuador, where he has hoped to get asylum, has been coy.

Putin, who hosted a summit of gas-exporting nations in Moscow that included leaders from Venezuela, Bolivia and Iran, said he doesn't know if they could offer Snowden shelter.

"If he wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do that," Putin said. "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound on my lips."

Putin added that Snowden doesn't want to stop his efforts to reveal information about the U.S. surveillance program.

Obama wouldn't confirm reports that law enforcement agencies in both Russia and the U.S. have been ordered to find a solution regarding Snowden.

The two leaders' comments come as Obama's administration is facing a breakdown in confidence from key allies over secret programs that reportedly installed covert listening devices in EU offices. Europe's outage was triggered by a Sunday report by German news weekly Der Spiegel that the NSA bugged diplomats from friendly nations, such as the EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels.

The report was partly based on the ongoing series of revelations of U.S. eavesdropping leaked by Snowden.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

Putin: Snowden gets asylum if he stops leaking U.S. secrets 07/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 10:37pm]
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