MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden has withdrawn an application for asylum in Russia, apparently deciding that he couldn't abide by President Vladimir Putin's insistence that he stop leaking U.S. secrets, a Kremlin spokesman said Tuesday.
“True, Snowden did voice a request [to be allowed] to stay in Russia,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “At the same time, having found out yesterday about Russia’s position outlined by President Putin ... he rejected his intention and his request to get a chance to stay in Russia.”
The Kremlin spokesman reiterated Putin’s position, announced Monday, that the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor must stop activities "aimed at damaging our American partners" if he wanted to be granted asylum in Russia.
“As far as we know he is not going to give those up,” Peskov said.
Putin also said that, regardless of Snowden's application, Russia would not turn him over to U.S. authorities for prosecution.
According to the WikiLeaks organization, which is helping Snowden, the fugitive has applied for asylum in 20 other countries. Among them, according to WikiLeaks, is Venezuela, whose president, Nicolas Maduro, was wrapping up a two-day visit to Moscow on Tuesday. There has been speculation that Maduro might allow Snowden to accompany him back to Caracas.
However, Maduro told reporters that he was not aware of an asylum request. He said that instead of taking Snowden home with him, he would return to Venezuela with "numerous agreements related to investments in the oil and gas sphere.”
At the same time Maduro -- a persistent critic of the United States who has inherited the mantle of the late President Hugo Chavez -- praised Snowden for telling “the big truth to prevent wars.”
The other countries listed by WikiLeaks were: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland.
Most of those countries have extradition agreements with the United States.
Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the foreign relations committee of the lower house of Russia's parliament, said that Putin, like his counterpart in Ecuador, doesn’t want to quarrel with the United States over Snowden.
“The way the Kremlin presents it, Putin wants to save face before the nations by not bowing to the United States. But at the same time, he doesn’t want to sacrifice what positive aspects still remain in U.S.–Russian relations over the fugitive,” Kalashnikov said. “I am very sorry for Snowden, who keeps being rejected by the countries he was counting on for protection.”
“His situation is dire but not hopeless, as the Kremlin will now do its best to find a safe place for him in a third country,” Kalashnikov added. “The Kremlin can’t afford to risk Snowden being intercepted by the United States in the process, because then Moscow will discredit itself in the eyes of the rest of the world.”
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