Putin: Snowden winding down ‘political activity’ against the US

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was winding down his “political activity” against the U.S., according to Reuters.

The Russian leader previously said he would grant Snowden asylum if he stopped “his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners.” 

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Putin’s comments Monday sparked speculation that the Kremlin may be opening the door to extending asylum to the American fugitive, who is seeking to avoid a U.S. extradition request to face espionage charges. Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport for nearly a month.

The NSA leaker said Friday in a rare public appearance that he would request temporary asylum from Russia so that he could travel to one of a handful of Latin American countries that have offered to take him in. Russian officials though said over the weekend that they had not yet received an asylum request for him.

Obama spoke with Putin over the phone on Friday, personally lobbying the Russian president to either hand Snowden over or to keep him from leaving Moscow.

According to the Reuters report, Putin was asked Monday what the future held for Snowden.

“How do I know? It's his life, his fate,” Putin said, before saying the U.S. government’s overzealous pursuit of Snowden was to blame for the present situation.

“He came to our territory without invitation. We did not invite him,” Putin said. “And we weren't his final destination. He was flying in transit to other states. But the moment he was in the air … our American partners, in fact, blocked his further flight.”

“They have spooked all the other countries. Nobody wants to take him, and in that way, in fact, they have themselves blocked him on our territory,” he added.

Russia has said it’s neutral in its dealings between Snowden and the U.S., but the dispute threatens to further chill an already frosty relationship between Washington and Moscow.

On Friday, before the president’s phone call with Putin, the White House blasted the “propaganda platform” it says Moscow granted Snowden by allowing him to hold court with human rights officials in a public meeting at the Moscow airport.

On Monday, The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the news of Snowden’s disclosure of secret surveillance programs, said that the leaker had also taken documents detailing the NSA operations.

“In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true, he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do,” Greenwald told The Associated Press.

Greenwald also reiterated threats that Snowden was prepared to share more damaging classified documents if any harm came to him.

“It's not just a matter of, if he dies, things get released. It's more nuanced than that,” Greenwald said. “It's really just a way to protect himself against extremely rogue behavior on the part of the United States, by which I mean violent actions toward him.”