Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said that the dispute over the fate of Edward Snowden should not damage relations with the U.S., a day after the National Security Agency leaker formally requested temporary asylum in Russia.
“We have warned Mr. Snowden that any actions by him connected with harming Russian-American relations are unacceptable,” said the Russian president, according to media reports.
“Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services,” Putin added.
Putin did not say if Russian officials would grant Snowden, currently in the transit zone of Moscow airport, asylum.
Snowden, a former government contractor who leaked classified information detailing the NSA’s surveillance programs, is facing espionage charges in the U.S. and attempting to evade an extradition order.
He has received asylum from a number of Latin American countries but may be unable to travel there without the permission of Russia after U.S. officials revoked his passport.
On Tuesday, a pro-Kremlin lawyer involved in his case said that Snowden had formally applied for temporary asylum and would honor Putin’s earlier demands that he stop leaking damaging information about the U.S.
"I will fulfill his condition," Snowden said, according to attorney Anatoly Kucherena.
Putin last week warned that Snowden would need to stop his activities against the U.S. before Russian authorities would consider any asylum request.
The White House has pressured nations not to give Snowden refuge and President Obama discussed the standoff over Snowden with Putin in a phone call last week.
On Monday, Putin blamed the U.S. for the controversy, saying that the U.S. had stranded Snowden in Russia by voiding his passport.
“He arrived on our territory without an invitation,” said Putin, according to reports. “He didn’t fly to us; he flew in transit to other countries. But only when it became known that he was in the air, our American partners, in fact, blocked him from flying further.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Snowden should not cause “long-term problems for U.S.-Russia relations.”
Carney said there were “regular communications” between U.S. and Russian officials to resolve the issue.