Putin rejects US call to extradite Snowden as he hides in airport
Vladimir Putin firmly rebuffed US appeals to hand over Edward Snowden as he finally confirmed that the fugitive whistle-blower was holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
The Russian president said that the 30-year-old American was a "free man" and as a "transit passenger" he could fly on to wherever he liked.
However, he urged Mr Snowden to select his "final destination" sooner rather than later and said that the Russian authorities had been surprised by his arrival in the country.
Mr Snowden, a former technician at the US National Security Agency, arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong on Sunday.
It has been suggested that he might travel to Venezuela or Cuba.
Addressing the issue for the first time, Mr Putin said Russia had no power to restrict Mr Snowden's movements. "He came as a transit passenger and he does not need a visa or other document," he said.
Mr Putin insisted that Russian security officials had not made contact with the whistle-blower. "I hope this won't reflect on the business aspect of relations with the US," he added.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, called for Russia to hand over America's most wanted man, saying Washington was not looking for "confrontation".
Mr Putin said that Russia only extradited foreign nationals to countries with which it had a formal extradition treaty.
"We have no such agreement with the US," Mr Putin said, adding that Mr Snowden had broken no Russian laws. "Snowden is a free man."
Mr Snowden's most likely destination remains Ecuador, where he has applied for asylum. He has been aided in the process by WikiLeaks, the organisation whose founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's London embassy for the past year to avoid extradition to Sweden on charges of rape and molestation.
Despite a heavy media presence, Mr Snowden has not been seen since he landed on a commercial flight and was taken by limousine to a hotel in the transit zone. (© Daily Telegraph, London)