Kremlin Denies Claim It Considered Giving Snowden As ‘Gift’ To Trump
(REPORT) — Amid reports that Moscow is considering handing over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a “gift” to U.S. President Donald Trump, a Russian government spokesperson said Monday that the Kremlin and the White House have not discussed the matter, Russia’s state TASS agency reported.
“No, this issue (Snowden’s fate) was not raised,” presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday, adding that Russian officials have not taken a position on whether Snowden should be extradited to the U.S. or granted Russian citizenship.
“The issue was not raised (during the Russian-US contacts),” Peskov said. “At the moment it is not among bilateral issues.”
The statement comes after Snowden — who has lived in Russia since 2013, first with one-year temporary asylum then a residence permit — revealed in recent days that he is “not afraid” of being handed over to the United States, where he faces espionage charges for his explosive 2013 leak of documents on secret U.S. mass surveillance programs.
“I don’t know if the rumors are true. But I can tell you this: I am not afraid,” Snowden wrote Saturday on his Twitter account to 2.88 million followers. “There are things that must be said no matter the consequence.”
In an earlier tweet, Snowden implied that the rumors may have stemmed from his criticism of a new Russian anti-terror surveillance law, which he argues should be repealed or amended.
“Days ago, I criticized the Russian government’s oppressive new ‘Big Brother’ law,” he wrote. “Now, threatening rumors. But I won’t stop.”
However, Snowden also said in an interview with Yahoo News that talk of a possible trade between Moscow and Washington makes him feel “encouraged” because it vindicates him in the face of accusations that he has been a spy for Russia by laying bare the fact that he has always been independent and “worked on behalf of the United States.”
“Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel,” he tweeted on Friday. “No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.”
In the U.S., Snowden faces charges of theft of government property and violation of the Espionage Act on two counts, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The whistleblower released a trove of classified National Security Agency documents in 2013 that revealed sweeping surveillance programs in the U.S. and around the world, fueling national debates over mass data collection, government secrecy and privacy.
“What I am proud of,” Snowden told Yahoo News, “is the fact that every decision that I have made I can defend.”
Snowden is set to be eligible to apply for Russian citizenship next year, according to his lawyer. Last month, Moscow extended his residence permit, which is now valid until 2020.
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