WASHINGTON, June 27 (RIA Novosti) – A senior US lawmaker has said he is preparing a package of measures to pressure Russia to assist the United States in securing the detention of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who is reportedly holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport after arriving from Hong Kong earlier this week, The Daily Beast reported Thursday.
“We are exploring what are the leverage points. I’m trying to put together a package to let the Russians know how serious we are,” US Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, told the US news website in an interview published Thursday. “We have to respond, this is a defining moment in the relationship.”
Graham declined to elaborate on what measures he and fellow US lawmakers might pursue, though he accused Russia of ignoring the rule of law both domestically and abroad, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “trying to recreate the old Soviet Union attitude and image,” The Daily Beast reported.
Several members of the US Congress this week have voiced outrage over Russian authorities’ refusal to act while Snowden reportedly remains in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, out of reach of US authorities who want him expelled and returned to the United States to face charges of leaking state secrets.
“Snowden has overstayed his welcome at the Moscow airport,” Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said in a statement. “I call on the Russian government, in the interest of justice, as well as US-Russian relations, to release him into the custody of the US Government today.”
Putin confirmed this week that Snowden is currently in Moscow in an unspecified transit area, presumably at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, and that Russia was under no legal obligation to hand him over to the United States given that the two countries don’t have an extradition treaty and because Snowden has not left the transit zone and formally entered Russian territory.
US President Barack Obama said Thursday that the United States would not engage in “wheeling and dealing” to win the extradition of Snowden, who is accused of leaking details about a secret surveillance program run by the US National Security Agency, for whom he worked as a contractor.
Carl Levin, head of the Senate’s armed services committee, told The Daily Beast that while the dispute over Snowden could strain US-Russian ties further, US lawmakers have few resources at their disposal that “will have a positive effect” in the standoff.