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Snowden must stop leaks - Putin

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will have to stop leaking US secrets if he wants to get asylum in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has said - but he believes he has no intention of doing so.

Mr Putin's statement came hours after Mr Snowden asked for political asylum, according to a consular official at the Moscow airport where the leaker has been caught in legal limbo for more than a week.

US president Barack Obama said there have been high-level discussions between the US and Russia about Mr Snowden's expulsion, though Mr Putin repeated that Russia will not send him back to the United States.

Mr Putin's stance could reflect a reluctance to shelter Mr Snowden, which would hurt already-strained US-Russian ties.

At the same time, the Russian leader seemed to keep the door open to allowing him to stay, a move that would follow years of anti-American rhetoric popular with Mr Putin's core support base of industrial workers and state employees.

Mr Putin said at a news conference: "If he wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do so. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips."

Mr Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The US has annulled his passport, and Ecuador, where he hoped to get asylum, has been coy about whether it would take him.

Kim Shevchenko, duty officer at the Russian Foreign Ministry's consular office in the airport reportedly said that Mr Snowden's representative, Sarah Harrison, handed over his request for asylum late on Sunday.

Mr Putin insisted that Mr Snowden is not a Russian agent and that Russian security agencies have not contacted him.

The US has appeared to back off from tough public words as it tries to broker Mr Snowden's return, in part to avoid increasing tensions as Mr Obama looks for Russia's co-operation in finding a path to peace in Syria.


From Belfast Telegraph