TRANSCRIPT: [Excerpt re Snowden] Putin News conference following the working meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit
(Kremlin.ru – July 1, 2013)
[Excerpt re Snowden]
QUESTION: Do you think that Mr Snowden will fly away with one of the delegates from this meeting?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You have to ask the delegates, I don’t know. I want to emphasise (we can never get away from this topic, it seems) that Mr Snowden is not our agent, never was, and isn’t today. Our special services have never worked with him and are not doing so now. And he no longer sees himself as a former intelligence officer, but rather as a human rights activist, and to some extent a new dissident similar to [Soviet-era dissident Andrei] Sakharov. On a different scale, of course, but he is essentially a fighter for human rights, and for democracy.
You know, our human rights organisations have spoken to this issue, and they believe it is impossible to extradite him to a country that uses the death penalty. But this is a separate issue; I think that first and foremost we have to leave it to professionals. I don’t know anything about Mr Snowden’s possible departure with a delegation.
QUESTION: I would like to continue on the Snowden topic.
You mentioned that Snowden is a free man, but along with this he has no documents …
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I did not check.
QUESTION: … that allow him to move freely. What are the conditions that must occur before Russia would extradite Snowden to the United States?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Russia never gives anyone up and doesn’t plan to give anyone up. And no one has ever given us anyone. You probably know this very well. At best, we exchanged our foreign intelligence agents with those who were arrested, detained and convicted by a Russian Federation court.
With regard to Mr Snowden, let me repeat that he is not our agent, nor is he cooperating with us. I am telling you responsibly that he is not cooperating with us today; we are not working with him. He considers himself a human rights activist and in this regard, he is a free man.
If he wants to go somewhere and someone will take him, go ahead. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips. But precisely because of the fact that he considers himself a human rights activist and campaigner for human rights, he is unlikely to stop that work. So he has to choose a destination country and go there. When that will happen, unfortunately, I do not know. If I knew, I would have absolutely told you now.