26 Jun 2013

Fugitive leaker still at Moscow airport

8:56 pm on 26 June 2013

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has confirmed that fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is still in the transit area at Moscow airport.

Snowden is wanted in America for leaking details of a secret American surveillance programme for the National Security Agency. Mr Putin insisted his arrival in Russia was unexpected.

The president said Mr Snowden remained a free man and the sooner he chose a destination the better.

Earlier, the United States said that it did not seek "confrontation", but Russia should hand him over.

The BBC reports that because Mr Snowden is in the pre-immigration area of the airport, he is technically not yet on Russian soil.

The Russians have rejected American charges that they have assisted Mr Snowden.

Mr Putin said in Finland that Russian security agencies "didn't work and aren't working" with him.

China has also rejected similar complaints.

Mr Snowden, 30, flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday. He was expected to board a flight to the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Monday, but never appeared.

The United States has revoked his passport and he has applied for asylum in Ecuador, which is already giving political asylum at its embassy in London to Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange.

Mr Snowden is charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.