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Russia may grant Snowden asylum

AAP/ AFR | June 12, 2013
Russia has indicated it may offer US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum, adding to a growing pattern of Russian overtures to critics of the US.

Russia has indicated it may offer US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum, adding to a growing pattern of Russian overtures to critics of the US.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told the influential Kommersant daily that Moscow would consider a request "if such an appeal is made".

"We will act according to facts," he said.

Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency, is reportedly hiding in Hong Kong after revealing he had leaked details of a US government domestic surveillance program.

Previous critics of the West who have won Moscow's praise include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who helped expose more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

Moscow offered Assange a program on the state-owned, English-language Russia Today television network, which positions itself as an alternative to mainstream Western news outlets and has attracted criticism for serving as the Kremlin's international mouthpiece.

Assange, who has been fighting extradition to Sweden from the Ecuadorian embassy in London since last year, himself praised Snowden on Monday for his revelation of the telephone and internet surveillance program.

Some senior Russian officials have publicly sided with Snowden, pitching his escape from the US as one from politically motivated persecution.

"By promising asylum to Snowden, Moscow has taken upon itself the defence of the politically persecuted," Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian parliament's international affairs committee, wrote on Twitter.

"There will be hysterics in the US."

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally offered earlier this year Russian citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu, after the famous Frenchman fled his native country in a high-profile huff over a proposed 75 per cent income tax rate for high earners.

Depardieu, who has widely praised both Putin and Russia, is currently in Chechnya filming a movie.

 

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