Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a news conference Monday that if National Security Agency defense contractor Edward Snowden wants to stay in Russia, he needs to stop leaking American secrets.
“Snowden is free to go but if he decides to stay, he has to stop his work directed to hurt our American partners,” said Putin, adding that Russia would not be handing Snowden over to the U.S.
“I know that this kind of statement sounds strange from me,” Putin continued.
Putin denied allegations that the 30-year-old American fugitive — believed to be in the transit zone in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport — was a “Russian agent,” and said that Russian intelligence services “were not working with him,” Reuters reports.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told reporters on Monday that Putin and President Barack Obama had directed FBI Director Robert Mueller and Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the KGB’s successor, the FSB, to “keep in constant contact and find solutions” to the impasse between the two countries.
Russia was one of 15 countries that Snowden had applied to for asylum as of Monday, The New York Times reports. Russia has already indicated that it would consider such a request from him should he make one.
A Russian official told the Times that it “usually takes a month for an application for political asylum to receive an answer from the Russian government.”