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July 12, 2013

President Obama to speak with President Putin

UPDATE: The White House says President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday and the conversation included the "status of Mr. Edward Snowden."

The phone call came as Snowden said he's asked Russia for asylum. The White House readout of the call didn't divulge much: "President Obama spoke by phone today with President Putin of Russia. The two leaders noted the importance of U.S.-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Mr. Edward Snowden and cooperation on counter-terrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics." 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier that plans for the call have been in the works for several days and that the pair are likely to talk about Snowden, as well as other issues.

Snowden met today with human rights groups at the airport and Carney criticized Russia for "providing a propaganda platform" for Snowden, saying it "runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality and that they have no control over his presence in the airport."

Carney called the meeting "incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests," but said the U.S. believes it doesn't have to disrupt what he called an "important relationship" with Russia.
He wouldn't say if there would be repercussions to U.S.-Russian relations if Snowden was granted asylum there, saying he wouldn't speculate about something that hasn't yet happened. But he said the US was reiterating to Russia its "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 took issue with Snowden's accusation that the U.S. government is engaged in an unlawful campaign to deny him his right to seek asylum, saying Snowden faces three felonies, "very serious crimes and every aspect of the United States' system of justice is available to him upon his return to the U.S. to face those charges."
 
He noted that the US has "a history of effective law enforcement cooperation with Russia -- with the Russian government including very recently in the wake of the bombings in Boston at the Boston Marathon.

He was asked what message the adminstration would send to Human Rights Watch and said: "Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist, or a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony accounts, and should be returned to the United States where he will be accorded full due process."

And he added that the U.S. -- which has been critical of Russia's human rights record -- would "urge the Russian government to afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia throughout Russia. Not just at the Moscow transit lounge."

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