Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed to CNN recently that former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s asylum in Russia has been extended until 2020. In June 2013, Snowden sought asylum there after leaking volumes of data on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the press.
Snowden to remain in Russia until 2020
Zakharova declared the extension of a “couple of years” in a post on Facebook on Tuesday. In the same post, she censured ex-CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece in which he suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the U.S. as “the perfect inauguration gift” to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
After his 2013 public disclosure of classified information, the former NSA contractor settled in Moscow for a while. Later, the Russian government granted him asylum. He received a 3-year extension to stay in Russia in August 2014. That extension would have expired this year.
More than a million supporters have petitioned the White House in the final weeks of the Obama administration to pardon Snowden, notes CNN. On Tuesday, the White House said that Snowden had not submitted official documents requesting clemency. He is accused of theft of government property and espionage.
Also on Tuesday, Snowden thanked President Barack Obama for his decision to commute the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing videos and 750,000 pages of documents and disseminating them to WikiLeaks.
Putin won’t gift Snowden to Trump
In his op-ed published on Sunday in The Cipher Brief, Morell called on Putin to circumvent the non-extradition principle and give Snowden back to the U.S. He faces up to 30 years in prison, notes RT.com.
“Noon on January 20th provides an excellent opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to give President-Elect Donald Trump the perfect inauguration gift – Edward Snowden,” Morell wrote.
He added that he is well aware that Russia does not have an extradition treaty with America but is confident that Putin is “creative enough to find a way within his own legal system to deport Snowden.”
Zakharova responded to the post saying that Russia neither betrays its principles nor hands out “gifts.” She said Morell has “failed to understand Russia.”
“It is clear that, for the CIA-man’s firm, it is normal to present people as gifts and give up those who seek protection.”