WASHINGTON, July 12 (RIA Novosti) – The White House on Friday criticized Russia for providing a “propaganda platform” for fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s announcement that he would seek asylum in Russia, saying that US President Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin would address the standoff later in the day.
“Providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality and that they have no control over his presence in the airport,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.
Carney said the planned phone call between Obama and Putin “has been on the books for several days” and that Obama would address the impasse over Snowden, who met with Russian lawyers and rights activists in a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Friday to discuss his bid for asylum in Russia in hopes of eventual safe passage to Latin America.
“He will have that conversation,” Carney said.
Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov told reporters at the airport that Snowden is willing to adhere to a previously stated condition by the Kremlin that he could stay in Russia if he vows to halt work aimed at “damaging our American partners.”
Carney told reporters Friday that Snowden’s announcement undermines “Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage US interests,” though he added that the US position “remains that we don’t believe this should, and we don’t want to do harm to our important relationship with Russia.”
“We continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorized leaking of classified information,” Carney said.
Images and video footage from Snowden’s meeting with lawyers and rights activists Friday were published by international media outlets, becoming the public’s first glimpse of the fugitive since he arrived at Sheremetyevo on a June 23 flight from Hong Kong.
Snowden is wanted by Washington on charges of espionage and property theft after he leaked details of secret state surveillance programs, and the United States has repeatedly pressed Russia to help facilitate his return by expelling him from the airport.
Russian officials, however, have repeatedly stated that he is out of their reach because he has not left the transit area and formally crossed into Russian territory.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing Friday that the United States is “disappointed that Russia facilitated” Snowden’s airport meeting by allowing the lawyers and rights activists into the Sheremetyevo transit zone.
“Mr. Snowden, as we’ve talked about, is not a whistleblower, not a human rights activist,” Psaki said. “He’s wanted on a series of criminal charges in the United States.”
Carney said Friday that the United States continues to make its case with officials in Moscow.
“We are working with the Russians and have made clear to the Russians our views about the fact that Mr. Snowden has been charged with very serious crimes, and that he should be returned to the US, where he will be granted full due process and every right available to him as a United States citizen,” Carney said.
The United States has canceled Snowden’s US passport but said it would provide him with one-time travel documents to return home.