MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama have discussed by phone urgent bilateral relations issues as well as the situation around fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the Kremlin said Saturday.
“On the initiative of the American side, the two presidents had a telephone conversation. Putin and Obama exchanged views on bilateral cooperation and security topics. They also discussed the situation around Snowden,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said without giving any details of the talks.
The White House later issued a similar statement, confirming the talks but avoiding elaboration on the issue.
Snowden, who is wanted by Washington on charges of espionage and property theft after he leaked details of secret state surveillance programs, has been holed up in a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival on a June 23 flight from Hong Kong.
During a meeting with a dozen prominent Russian lawyers and rights activists at the airport on Friday, Snowden announced plans to ask for temporary asylum in Russia hoping to arrange an eventual safe passage to Latin America.
The White House immediately criticized Russia for providing a “propaganda platform” for Snowden’s announcement.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Friday that Snowden’s announcement undermines “Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage US interests.”
President Putin said last month that Moscow would consider granting Snowden asylum under the condition that he stop his work aimed at “damaging our American partners,” an option Snowden initially rejected, but apparently accepted after failing to secure safe passage to Latin American countries that offered him asylum - Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.