Russian Officials Deny Aiding Snowden Escape

Russian and Chinese officials deny claims that they helped Snowden escape U.S. prosecution.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov bluntly rejected U.S. demands to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and said the hasn’t crossed the Russian border at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected U.S. demands to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

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Russian officials shot down American criticism Tuesday, insisting the country had not assisted NSA leaker Edward Snowden evade capture, and that he never crossed the Russian border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia has nothing to do with Snowden or his travels, but would not say where Snowden is. Lavrov denounced American demands for Snowden's extradition and warnings of negative consequences if Moscow does not turn over the missing whistleblower, according to the Associated Press.

"We consider the attempts to accuse Russia of violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy, which on top of all that are accompanied by threats, as absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable," Lavrov said. "There are no legal grounds for such conduct of U.S. officials."

[READ: Obama Appears Weak in Dealing With Snowden]

Snowden fled to Russia on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he had been in hiding since he leaked information on two large U.S. counterterror surveillance programs to the global media. Though Snowden reportedly arrived at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow this past weekend, Russian officials have insisted that he never left the airport's transit zone, and therefore never made it into the country.

"We are in no way involved with either Mr. Snowden, his relations with U.S. justice, nor in his movements around the world," Lavrov said during a news conference.

 

Lavrov said Russian officials only learned about Snowden's arrival from news reports.

China has also denied that authorities were wrong to let Snowden leave, despite a U.S. extradition request, according to The Washington Post.

"The Hong Kong government handled the case totally according to the law," Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Washington Post. "The accusations against the Chinese government are groundless."

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been advising Snowden, said the fugitive has asked for refuge in Ecuador and other countries. Although Snowden was expected to leave Russia for Havana, Cuba, before continuing to Ecuador, airline officials said he never boarded the Monday flight, according to numerous reports.

According to the AP, an Ecuadorian official said Russia and Ecuador were discussing where Snowden could go and that Ecuador's ambassador to Moscow had not seen or spoken to Snowden.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, praised Snowden in a news conference Monday as "a man attempting to bring light and transparency to facts that affect everyone's fundamental liberties," according to The New York Times.

Patiño confirmed on his Twitter account Sunday that Snowden had asked for asylum in Ecuador.

He described the decision on whether to grant Snowden asylum as a choice between "betraying the citizens of the world or betraying certain powerful elites in a specific country."

[ALSO: Where in the World Is Edward Snowden?]

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., challenged the Obama administration on Tuesday when he told CBS that the stalled search for Snowden jeopardizes American credibility abroad.

The NSA leak and the extended search for Snowden shows "an administration that seems more and more incompetent by the day," he said on "CBS This Morning."

"Once we've discovered that this person has stolen our secrets, has leaked them, you'd think we'd do a better job of following up with them in China and these other countries," Ryan added.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that the administration expects Russian officials to "look at all the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States."

"Obviously we're monitoring the situation very closely and are in contact with Russia and other governments as appropriate," he said.

More News:

  • Snowden's Departure from Hong Kong Shows Chinese Anger Over Spying
  • NSA Leaker Snowden Expected to Fly to Cuba
  • Obama's 'Draconian' Response Only Makes Better Hackers