Washington, July 13: US President Barack Obama discussed the status of Edward Snowden with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Friday, hours after the former US spy agency contractor made clear his intention to seek political asylum in Russia.
In their phone conversation, the two leaders "noted the importance of US-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Edward Snowden and cooperation on counterterrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics", the White House said in a terse statement, reported Xinhua.
Snowden, who has been marooned in the transit zone of Moscow's
Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival there June 23, disclosed his
intention to seek asylum in Russia through his meeting with a group
of Russian and foreign human rights activists, lawyers and
parliamentarians earlier in the day.
Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov told reporters that the 30-year-old American has agreed to stop damaging US interests, a precondition set by Putin days earlier for Snowden to stay in Russia.
White House spokesman Jay Carney Friday reiterated Washington's call for Russia to hand over Snowden to face espionage charges back at home.
"We continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorized leaking of classified information," he said at a regular press briefing.
Snowden was charged by Washington with espionage and theft of government property following his disclosure in early June of massive secret phone and Internet surveillance programs of the US National Security Agency.
The US State Department has revoked his passport, making it difficult for him to travel on to other destinations without travel documents.