Kremlin denies Snowden is breaking terms of Russian asylum

MOSCOW, (PNA/RIA Novosti) — Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden will not be permitted to break the conditions of his asylum status in Russia by harming the US, a Russian newspaper quoted President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman as saying Saturday.

The Kommersant daily quoted a source in the US White House as saying that Snowden’s activities in Moscow were clearly harming US national interests, but cited Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as rejecting the allegation in an article published Saturday.

Putin said in July that the former US National Security Agency contractor, who went on the run after leaking details of top-secret US surveillance programs to the media, would only be allowed to stay in Russia if he stopped “his work aimed at harming our US partners.” Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in August after spending more than a month in the transit zone of a Moscow airport, and now lives at an undisclosed location in Russia.

This week, Snowden was back in the news after he met with German lawmaker Hans-Christian Ströbele in Moscow who said the former CIA employee had offered to testify to German lawmakers about information leaked by him about the US spying on Germany, including claims that the NSA had tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for more than 10 years.

The White House believes Snowden’s latest activities violate Putin’s condition, Kommersant said.

“No one will let him break the Russian president’s condition that he must not harm the US,” the newspaper quoted Peskov as saying. “But he is on Russian soil, having legally obtained temporary asylum, and therefore is free to meet with whomever he pleases.”

The meeting between Snowden and Ströbele followed news reports last week – citing materials leaked by Snowden – that the US had been spying on high-ranking EU politicians. Kommersant quoted Peskov as saying that those materials had not been distributed from Russia, and Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena as saying that the materials had been handed over to journalists back in Hong Kong. Snowden himself has said that he handed over his entire archive of stolen materials to journalists there before leaving for Russia.

Kucherena rejected Ströbele’s suggestion that Snowden could travel to Germany to testify over the latest spy scandal allegations if he were given guarantees that he would not be detained there or extradited to the US, where he faces charges of espionage and theft of government property. Snowden’s lawyer told journalists that the fugitive American cannot leave Russian territory under the terms of his asylum status.

Berlin is prepared to send a delegation to Moscow in order to question Snowden over the allegations, Kommersant reported.

Kucherena said Thursday that Snowden had found a job maintaining one of Russia’s largest websites and would start work on November 1, though he declined to reveal the company’s name for security reasons.