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Putin: Snowden is at Moscow airport

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and will not be extradited to the United States.

Mr Putin said Mr Snowden hasn't crossed the Russian border and is free to go anywhere.

Speaking on a visit to Finland, he added that Russian security agencies "didn't work and aren't working" with Mr Snowden. He gave no more details.

Commenting on a US request to extradite him, Mr Putin said Russia doesn't have an extradition agreement with the US and thus would not meet the US request. He voiced hope that Mr Snowden will depart as quickly as possible and that his stopover at Moscow's airport wouldn't affect bilateral ties.

After arriving Sunday on a flight from Hong Kong, Snowden booked a seat on a Havana-bound flight from Moscow on Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he didn't board the plane.

Snowden's whereabouts since then have been a mystery, and Mr Putin's comments were the first time Russia has made clear it knows where he is. Speculation has been rife that Russian security agencies might want to keep Snowden in Russia for a more thorough debriefing, but Putin denied that.

"Our special services never worked with Mr Snowden and aren't working with him today," Mr Putin said at a news conference during a visit to Finland.

"Mr. Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him," Mr Putin said. "I hope it will not affect the business-like character of our relations with the US and I hope that our partners will understand that."

Mr Putin compared Snowden to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has been provided asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, saying that both men were labelled criminals but consider themselves rights activists and champions of freedom of information.

"Ask yourself a question: should people like that be extradited so that they put them in prison or not?" he said. "In any case, I would prefer not to deal with such issues."

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