Putin: Edward Snowden still in Moscow airport
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, says former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is still in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, was free to leave and should do so as soon as possible.
Mr Putin told a news conference during a visit to Finland that he hoped the affair would not affect relations with Washington, which wants Russia to send him to the United States, but indicated Moscow would not hand him over. He dismissed US accusations against Russia over the case as "rubbish."
"Our special services have never worked with Mr Snowden and are not working with him now," he said. "Mr Snowden really did arrive in Moscow. For us it was completely unexpected.
"He came as a transit passenger and he does not need a visa or other document. As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a ticket and fly where he wants.
"He is not crossing any borders so he doesn't need a visa."
Regarding his handover to American authorities, he said that they would only do so to state "with which we have corresponding international agreements". Russia and the US have no such agreement.
Earlier, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, called for Russia to be "calm" and hand over Snowden, the former US spy agency contractor.
Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Kerry said the transfer of the former government contractor, believed to be in Moscow, was a matter of rule of law after Russia earlier rejected US criticism over the case. Mr Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday and was supposed to get on a flight to Havana, Cuba, but never boarded.
"I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness. We would hope that Russia would not side with someone who is 'a fugitive' from justice," Mr Kerry said.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, earlier rejected any blame directwed toward them by Washington for his disappearance, and denied that he had "crossed the Russian border."
"He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it ... from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border," Mr Lavrov said.
"We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating US laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable."
Mr Lavrov's comments were the first by a senior Russian official since Mr Snowden arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong on Sunday, starting a cat-and-mouse chase that has frayed ties between Washington and Beijing and threatened US-Russian relations.
Washington has said it believe he is still in Moscow. He has not been seen at Sheremetyevo airport and is not known to have left the transit area.
Russia's comments echoed China's. Beijing has hit out at similar accusations from the US to China, calling them "groundless" and unacceptable". "
"It is unreasonable for the US to question Hong Kong's handling of affairs in accordance with law, and the accusation against the Chinese central government is groundless," foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said. "China cannot accept that."
The White House said Hong Kong's decision was "a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship."
Hong Kong's justice secretary meanwhile said that they did not assist Mr Snowden, claiming that incomplete paperwork prevented officials from issuing a provisional arrest warrant.
"Any suggestion that we have been deliberately letting Mr. Snowden go away or to do any other things to obstruct the normal operation is totally untrue," secretary for justice Rimsky Yuen said.
"I can tell you in no uncertain term that we have not been deliberately delaying the progress, all along, we act fully in accordance to the law."