MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – A senior Russian diplomat denied on Wednesday that Russia had any obligation to return fugitive US former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to the United States.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special representative for human rights and the rule of law, said that when pressing for the return of Snowden, who is currently stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, the United States should not claim that Russia is under any obligation to do so.
“In any situation of international significance, we remain committed to the fulfillment of corresponding international obligations,” the Russian diplomat said. “When obligations exist, we fulfill them. But they should not be invented in cases where they do not exist,” he said.
Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking classified data about the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, arrived to Russia on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23 and formally requested temporary asylum in Russia on July 16.
Washington has repeatedly called on Moscow to reject Snowden’s request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.
However, Dolgov said Russia has not yet received a formal US request to extradite Snowden.
US officials have requested Russia to return the leaker, arguing that although the two states have no formal extradition treaty, Washington has allegedly returned a number of Russians following requests from Moscow. Dolgov said the United States had failed to provide Russia with a list of those individuals, adding that the terms “extradition” and “deportation” were not interchangeable and should not be confused.
“As far as I know, there have been no cases [of extradition] from US territory. Although people are indeed being deported, it’s not because of Russia’s demands, but because they have violated US law,” the Russian diplomat said.