A Russian immigration official said Monday that U.S. fugitive Edward
Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia.
The official, who spoke to Russian and international reporters on
condition of anonymity, said a WikiLeaks activist who is traveling with
Snowden handed his application to a Russian consulate in the transit
area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country has never extradited
anyone before and that Snowden could remain in Moscow if he stopped
Putin said Monday that if Snowden wants to stay in Russia he "must stop
his work aimed at harming our American partners - no matter how strange
this may sound coming from me."
But he added that the former U.S. spy agency contractor seems to have no
plans to quit doing so.
Putin said the U.S. fugitive "is not a Russian agent," repeating that
Russian intelligence services were not working with Snowden, who remains
in the airport transit area eight days after arriving from Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama played down a related controversy
over whether Washington had spied on its European allies, saying all
intelligence services around the world seek to understand what other
nations are thinking.
Speaking in Tanzania, Mr. Obama said the United States is still
evaluating reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel about the
surveillance program and would contact its European counterparts to
provide all the information they are requesting.
Several European leaders, including French President Francois Hollande
and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, have strongly criticized
allegations the U.S. National Security Agency bugged European Union
offices and gained access to its internal computer networks.
The allegations have led some in Europe to call for a suspension of
talks on a trans-Atlantic trade agreement.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday mutual trust
must be restored following the allegations that appeared Saturday in Der
The magazine said the NSA placed listening devices in EU offices in
Washington, Brussels and the United Nations in New York, and infiltrated
EU computers to monitor telephone conversations, emails and other
documents. It quoted secret U.S. documents leaked by Snowden, a former
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday it is "not unusual" for lots
of nations to engage in efforts to protect their security.
"I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in
international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities
to protect its national security and all kinds of information
contributes to that," said Kerry.
Snowden fled the U.S. to Hong Kong in May and then disclosed key
documents about the surveillance programs being conducted by the
National Security Agency to thwart terrorism.
He was believed to be seeking asylum in Ecuador in a bid to escape
extradition to the United States, which has annulled his passport. But
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Sunday that Snowden's fate was
in the hands of Russian authorities.