Russian officials on Monday pushed back against demands to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to the U.S., arguing that Washington has regularly failed to extradite criminals wanted by Moscow.
“Law agencies asked the U.S. on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to,” said Andrey Pilipchuck, a spokesman for Russia's Interior Ministry, according to reports.
Pilipchuck cited the case of a former Red Army officer wanted for corruption and terrorism in Chechnya and another individual charged with extortion. Both received political asylum in the U.S., where they reside today.
The pushback from Russia comes as U.S. officials continue to press for Snowden, who disclosed classified details of the NSA’s secret surveillance programs to be returned to the U.S.
Snowden has been hiding in the transit zone of Moscow’s airport as he seeks to evade a U.S. extradition request to face espionage charges.
Snowden has received asylum from a number of Latin American countries but needs the permission of Russia to travel there after U.S. authorities revoked his passport.
A lawyer aiding him said earlier this week that he expects a decision from Russian officials on Snowden’s temporary asylum request as soon as Wednesday.
President Obama has personally lobbied Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call earlier this month to return Snowden.
Putin said earlier this month that Russia would be willing to host Snowden if he stopped activities intended to damage the U.S., but added that bilateral relations were more important than the dispute over the admitted leaker.