A protester holding a sign in support of former NSA contactor Edward Snowden in Paris, France
US officials have warned Russia against giving refuge to American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, after reports that he has been given documents to leave Moscow’s main airport.
In a blunt warning to Russia, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russia is provoking a diplomatic crisis with its reported granting of refuge to Snowden.
“I repeat my message to Russia that providing any refuge to Edward Snowden will be harmful to US-Russia relations,” Menendez said in a statement sent to the Los Angeles Times.
“Edward Snowden is a fugitive who should be prosecuted in the US for the serious allegations of espionage. Snowden remains in possession of sensitive documents, and for Russia or any nation to grant him asylum or safe passage directly concerns our national security priorities.”
US officials are “seeking clarity” from Russian authorities on the status of Snowden, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday.
“Our position on Mr. Snowden remains what it was, which is that he is neither a human rights activist nor a dissident,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Russian officials are resisting US calls to extradite the intelligence leaker, saying the US has repeatedly ignored Russia’s extradition requests.
On Wednesday, Russian media reported that the American whistleblower had been given documents that would allow him to leave Moscow’s main international airport.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, Snowden’s lawyer said that his client would have to spend another day or more at the airport because the documents granting him temporary asylum in Russia were incomplete.
Snowden was charged with espionage in the US after exposing classified programs that collect telephone and Internet data from US citizens and other nationals.