White House 'extremely disappointed' with Russia

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is "extremely disappointed" in Russia's decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the White House said Thursday.

It was the Obama administration's first public response to Russia's move in defiance of U.S. wishes. Snowden left the transit zone of a Moscow airport and officially entered Russia after authorities granted him asylum, his lawyer said Thursday.

The White House said it is re-evaluating whether President Barack Obama should attend an upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and private that Mr. Snowden be expelled and returned to the United States," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Carney said that Moscow had given the U.S. no advance notice before announcing its decision to grant Snowden asylum for one year.

The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution on espionage charges over his leaks that revealed wide U.S. electronic surveillance programs, but Putin dismissed the request.

Putin has said that his decision on asylum was contingent on Snowden not hurting U.S. interests.

Some U.S. lawmakers have angrily insisted the U.S. must re-evaluate its approach to Moscow in light of the decision. Even before Russia's move Thursday, some lawmakers were calling for the U.S. to boycott next year's Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi, Russia.

"Russia's action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans," said Sen. John McCain, a prominent Republican and former presidential candidate. "Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia."

Carney would not say that the U.S. will take any specific steps in retribution.

Carney added that the U.S. has a complicated, wide-ranging relationship with Russia, suggesting the U.S. was reluctant to allow relations to deteriorate too much over Snowden.

Of top concern to Obama's national security team is Russia's role in the conflict in Syria, where Washington and Moscow are supporting opposing sides in the nation's two-year civil war. Moscow is one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's key supporters despite America's insistence that Assad must cede power.

Carney wouldn't say whether Snowden is in possession of further information about spying practices that could damage the U.S. if released.

"Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower" or a dissident, Carney said. "He is accused of leaking classified information. He should be returned to the United States as soon as possible."


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