By Justin Sink - 06/25/13 06:57 PM EDT
The White House on Tuesday said Russia has a "clear legal basis" to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to the United States.
"While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr. Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement.
"Accordingly, we are asking the Russian Government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing."
Russian President Valdimir Putin said that because Russia had no extradition agreement with the U.S., the country could not respond to the request to return Snowden, who has been charged with espionage.
"Mr. Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him," Putin said, according to The Associated Press. "I hope it will not affect the business-like character of our relations with the U.S., and I hope that our partners will understand that."
“We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating U.S. laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable,” he said.
Hayden said the officials at the White House "understand that Russia must consider the issues raised by Mr. Snowden's decision to travel there."
"We agree with President Putin that we do not want this issue to negatively impact our bilateral relations."
Snowden traveled to Moscow from Hong Kong after authorities there declined to detain him, saying a U.S. extradition request did not include sufficient information.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted the move by Hong Kong authorities, saying it "unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."
“We see this as a setback in terms of their efforts to build mutual trust and our concerns are pretty clearly stated,” Carney said.