MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Edward J. Snowden, the former national security staff member accused of espionage, would not receive political asylum in Russia unless he stopped publishing classified documents that hurt US interests.
At a news conference here, Putin said that since it appeared Snowden was going to continue publishing leaks, his chances of staying in Russia were slim. Putin also pushed back against efforts by the United States to persuade the Russian government to extradite Snowden, making it clear that Russia would not comply.
“Russia never gives up anyone to anybody and is not planning to,” Putin said.
Snowden applied for political asylum in Russia late Sunday, according to Kim Shevchenko, an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport. Shevchenko said Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks activist who is traveling with Snowden, hand-delivered his request to the consulate in Terminal F of the airport.
Eight days ago, Snowden arrived on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong, apparently intending to board a connecting flight to Latin America. Since then, Snowden and Harrison have become caught in a geopolitical limbo, since Snowden’s US passport has been revoked and he has been unable to leave the transit zone.
Snowden appeared to break his silence Monday for the first time since he flew to Moscow eight days ago. WikiLeaks issued a statement attributed to Snowden that denounced President Obama.
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon,” the statement attributed to Snowden said. “Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person.’’
The statement posted on the website of WikiLeaks also accused Obama and the US government of seeking to intimidate him and deceive the world because of his disclosures about the vast global surveillance efforts of US intelligence agencies.
With Ecuador, his original destination, evidently wavering, Snowden’s options seem to have narrowed, and his stopover at Sheremetyevo Airport now threatens to stretch into weeks. Putin referred to this uncertainty Monday.
“If he wants to go somewhere and they accept him, please, be my guest,” he said. “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips.”
But Putin also noted that Snowden seemed intent on continuing to publish classified documents that damage the United States.
“Because he sees himself as a human rights activist and a freedom fighter for people’s rights, apparently he is not intending to cease this work,” Putin said. “So he must choose for himself a country to go to and where to move. When that will happen, I unfortunately don’t know.”
A Foreign Ministry official told The Los Angeles Times on Monday that Snowden had appealed to 15 countries for asylum, handing over the paperwork at a Monday morning meeting at the airport. The official characterized the applications as “a desperate measure” on Snowden’s part, after Ecuadoran officials said that the Ecuadoran travel document he is using was invalid.
Shevchenko said Snowden’s application for asylum in Russia had not received a response from the Foreign Ministry as of Monday evening.
In mid-June, shortly after Snowden disclosed he was the source of the leak about the government’s widespread collection of private Internet and telephone data, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri S. Peskov, signaled openness to granting Snowden political asylum, telling a reporter from Kommersant that “if we receive such a request, it will be considered.”
But over the week that Snowden has spent at Sheremetyevo airport, top Russian officials have tried to remain neutral on whether he should be granted asylum, perhaps because they are wary of the damage it would do to their relationship with the United States.
Top officials have said the case does not directly involve them, since Snowden has not passed through immigration control and remains in a part of the airport that is technically not Russian territory.
A spokeswoman for the White House said Monday that it had no reaction to Snowden’s asylum request and added that it did not change its position regarding Russia or Snowden. “Our message is the same to all countries about the need to expel him,” said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman.
Asked if a decision by Russia to grant Snowden asylum would upset plans for Obama to visit in September, she called that “very hypothetical.”
“As we’ve said, we do not want this to have a negative impact on the bilateral relationship, and we want to build on our good law enforcement cooperation, particularly since Boston,” Hayden said, referring to the Boston Marathon bombings.