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Russia denying direct involvement with Snowden, but refusing to extradite to U.S.

June 25, 2013

During the past few weeks, former intelligence officer Edward Snowden has been in hiding after leaking details of the U.S. National Security Agency's various domestic surveillance programs. While it became known that he'd originally fled to Hong Kong, China, his exact whereabouts remained a mystery. On June 23, he left the city and flew to Moscow, Russia. The nation is taking a multifaceted stand on the issue. Accounts from BBC News and The Associated Press both point out that Snowden is currently in the general area of the Moscow airport. However, the country is both claiming to have no direct involvement in his plans and to be unwilling to extradite him.

Those currently in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport are likely aware of this breaking situation, and could be discussing it in detail on the phone using an international calling card.

According to BBC News, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, publicly rebuked claims that the nation's government had anything to do with Snowden or his next move.

"We are in no way involved with either Mr. Snowden, his relations with U.S. justice, nor to his movements around the world. He chose his itinerary on his own ... We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating U.S. laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable."

Lavrov's comments echo those of China, which claimed to be similarly accused of directly aiding and abetting Snowden's exodus from Hong Kong.

In the late morning of June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his official comments on the matter. According to The Associated Press, he publicly confirmed that Snowden was indeed within the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport, and that as he had not officially entered Russia, the government had no way to hold him there against his will. He said he hoped the leaker would determine his next course of action and leave as soon as possible, while also stating that Russia would under no circumstances extradite him due to the lack of an appropriate legal agreement with the United States.

The Guardian reported that some in the media are speculating as to how long Snowden can legally remain in the airport without being detained for violation of a transit visa, which typically does not extend beyond 72 hours, and others have voiced concerns about the possibility of field intelligence officers moving to intercept the leaker.

According to Today, former CIA deputy director of counterterrorism Philip Mudd claimed in an interview that Russia's claim of no involvement with Snowden is unlikely, and believes that representatives of the nation's government have questioned him in some capacity.

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