x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Snowden must stop his activism if he wants to stay in Russia, Putin says

The United States has asked for Mr Snowden's extradition to face espionage charges, but Moscow has so far declined on the grounds that the whistle-blower has not entered Russian territory.

MOSCOW // Former US government contractor Edward Snowden must stop his activism if he wants to stay in Russia, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

The United States has asked for Mr Snowden's extradition to face espionage charges, but Moscow has so far declined on the grounds that the whistle-blower has not entered Russian territory.

But on Monday, Reuters reported that Mr Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia as well, citing immigration sources.

In a press conference yesterday, Mr. Putin reiterated that Russia has no close ties with Mr. Snowden. "He is not our agent, he is not cooperating with us and we are not working with him," he said.

Russia's RIA news agency said that Mr Putin and US President Barack Obama had asked their respective security services to find a solution to the standoff. But RIA quoted Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin's advisory Security Council, as saying it would not be easy for the FBI and Russia's FSB to agree over the fate of Mr Snowden.

Meanwhile, furore is growing among Washington's European allies over the latest reports of American surveillance.

On Sunday, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported that the US National Security Agency planted bugs in the EU's diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building's computer network. Similar measures were taken at the EU's mission to the United Nations in New York.

Many European countries had so far been muted about revelations of the wide net cast by US surveillance programs aimed at preventing terrorist attacks. But on Monday, French President Francois Hollande demanded that the United States immediately stop its alleged eavesdropping and suggested that the widening surveillance scandal could derail negotiations for a free-trade deal potentially worth billions.

"We cannot accept this kind of behaviour from partners and allies," Mr Hollande said on French television on Monday. "We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas, once we have obtained these guarantees for France, but that goes for the whole European Union and I would say for all partners of the United States," he said. The European Commission, as well as Germany and Italy, have also demanded explanations about the alleged spying.

The German government launched a review of its secure government communications network and the EU's executive, the European Commission, ordered "a comprehensive ad hoc security sweep."

"Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. "We're not in the Cold War anymore."

The White House wouldn't comment on the new reports, but officials said President Barack Obama has not spoken to his counterparts in Europe about the revelations since they were published.

*The Associated Press, Reuters, and Dow Jones