Russia Rejected U.S. plea over Snowden

United State tussle with Russia over Snowden has become a new bone of contentions between two traditional rivals. Russia denied presence of any contract with U.S. over exchange of prisoners.  Putin said, yes, he’s at a Moscow airport, and no, you can’t have him. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the first official acknowledgment of the whereabouts of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday and promptly rejected U.S. pleas to turn him over. Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend, touching off a global guessing game over where he went and frustrating U.S. efforts to bring him to justice.

Putin said Snowden was in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, meaning he technically was not in Russia and thus was free to travel wherever he wanted. After arriving Sunday on a flight from Hong Kong, Snowden registered for a Havana-bound flight Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he didn’t board the plane. Speculation has been rife that Russian security services have been talking to Snowden and might want to keep him in Russia for a more thorough debriefing, but Putin denied that. “Our special services never worked with Mr. Snowden and aren’t working with him today,” Putin said at a news conference during a visit to Finland. Because Moscow has no extradition agreement with Washington, it cannot meet the U.S. request, he said. Rebuffed by Putin, the Obama administration toned down demands Tuesday in a sign that the United States believes the fugitive is not worth scuttling diplomatic relations between the former Cold War enemies.

It was a turnabout from tough talk against China a day earlier for letting Snowden flee Hong Kong instead of sending him back to the United States to face espionage charges. Putin’s staunch refusal to consider deportation shows his readiness to further challenge Washington at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are already strained over Syria and other issues, including a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans. Despite Putin’s denial, security experts believe Russia’s special services wouldn’t miss the chance to question a man who is believed to hold reams of classified U.S. documents and could shed light on how the U.S. intelligence agencies collect information. Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Global Arms Trade and editor of National Defense Magazine, said, “The security services would be happy to enter into contact with Mr. Snowden.” With Snowden stuck in Moscow and Washington pushing hard for his return, many Ecuadoreans began realizing Tuesday that this small country’s deep economic ties with the United States could make it the one with the most to lose in the high-stakes international showdown over the National Security Agency leaker.

While President Rafael Correa’s leftist government was virtually silent on Snowden’s request for asylum, Ecuadorean analysts said his fate, or at least his safe harbor in Ecuador, could depend as much on flowers and frozen vegetables as on questions over freedom of expression and international counterterrorism. Unlike with China, Russia, or Cuba, countries where the United States has relatively few tools to force Snowden’s handover, the Obama administration could swiftly hit Ecuador in the pocketbook by denying reduced tariffs on cut flowers, artichokes, in a country where nearly half of foreign trade depends on the United States. A denial wouldn’t mean financial devastation for Ecuador, which has been growing healthily in recent years thanks to its oil resources. But analysts and political figures said any economic damage could alter the political calculus for Correa, a pragmatic leftist who delights in tweaking the United States, but hasn’t yet suffered any major consequences.Courtesy :
Associated Press

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