Russian officials on Tuesday rejected U.S. calls to expel National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, denying that he was in their custody or receiving their assistance.
The former Defense contractor, who revealed classified information on secret surveillance programs and is wanted on federal espionage charges, is believed to be in Moscow after he fled Hong Kong on Sunday.
"He has not crossed the Russian border," said Lavrov, according to reports. "We consider the attempts to put blame on the Russian side … absolutely groundless and unacceptable."
Snowden departed a flight from Hong Kong on Sunday, aided by the WikiLeaks group and has sought asylum in Ecuador.
The Obama administration on Monday harshly criticized China and Russia for allowing Snowden to travel despite a warrant for his extradition and warned there would be serious repercussions for U.S. bilateral relations.
“We obviously hope countries will live by the standards of the law,” Kerry said. “When they don’t, they invite other countries to break those standards, and I think it’s a very serious question for all of us in our relationships.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday blasted China as well in strong language, saying, “We do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action” to stop Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.
Hong Kong officials had denied the extradition request, saying it failed to meet their legal standards.
China defended its decision on Tuesday.
"The U.S. side has no reason to call into question the Hong Kong government's handling of affairs according to law," China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said according to Reuters. "The United States' criticism of China's central government is absolutely baseless."
On Tuesday Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Benghazi report fallout | Nearly 50 dead after Istanbul attack The Trail 2016: 11 hours, 800 pages, 0 changed minds McChrystal backs McCain's Pentagon reform proposal MORE (R-Ariz.) said it was clear that Snowden is clearly hiding out in Russia.
"It is well known that he is in Russia," McCain said on CNN. "It's reminiscent of the days of the Cold War when you hear a Russian spokesman saying that he's not in Russia when every shred of evidence indicates that he is."
McCain said Russia was showing the U.S. “a total lack of respect."