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BRATISLAVA, August 28 (Itar-Tass) - State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was Don Quixote who was facing a death penalty for an attempt to protect the rights of millions of people.
“You know that I compare him [Snowden] with Cervantes’ hero Don Quixote. Actually, Snowden has something in common with him: he is just as naive, noble and unselfish,” Naryshkin said in an interview with Slovak television on Wednesday, August 28, during his official visit to Bratislava.
But unlike Don Quixote, who fought windmills, Snowden is fighting “violations committed by the state system,” Naryshkin said, adding that he was doing this for no reward.
“How can he be called a spy? He did not cooperate with the Slovak, Russian, French or Chinese intelligence service. Was he fulfilling someone’s order? No, he wasn’t. He did that because of his own convictions that the rights of millions of people on our planet must be protected. And he did just that,” the speaker said.
He thinks those who call Snowden a spy who has divulged U.S. national secrets are wrong. “I think that’s not so. I am sure of that. What information did Edward Snowden make public? It was not information about the location of U.S. military units in Afghanistan or Iraq, codes, secret keys or plans for some future military operations. He told the public that the United States, security services and the state were watching a large number of people, hundreds of millions of people not only in the U.S. but around the world and thus violated fundamental human rights,” Naryshkin said.
One can hardly consider treason the fact that Snowden made public information about the crimes committed by the American military, including in Iraq, he added.
Moscow gave Snowden temporary asylum because the “state that calls itself the leader of democracy and the main defender of human rights in the world still has and uses such a penalty as capital punishment.”
“We understand that Edward Snowden would have faced this penalty had he ended up in the U.S. or any other state. This is why we thought it impossible to extradite him,” the Duma speaker said.
He stressed that the asylum granted to Snowden was temporary not political and had been given on condition that Snowden “will no longer take any steps against the United States that would complicate our partnership with America.”
The Obama administration continues to insist on Snowden’s return to the United States for trial and assured the audience that it would be a fair trial.
U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that the Russian authorities’ decision to grant temporary asylum to Snowden was “an extremely disappointing step.” She said the U.S. authorities “continue to press with the Russian Government that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will face a free and fair trial.”
Harf stressed that “this move by the Russian Government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombings. So we will continue to make that point with the Russian Government at all points in this process.”
She said “Mr. Snowden is wanted on very serious charges and that he needs to be returned to the United States to face those charges.”
The U.S. administration regretted Russia’s “disappointing decision” to grant Snowden temporary asylum and said it was also “a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.”
U.S. Deputy National Security Affairs Ben Rhodes said the decision to give temporary asylum to Snowden had further complicated the already complex relations between the two countries.
Edward Snowden arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport from Hong Kong on June 23 and was staying in its transition zone until the beginning of August. He applied for temporary asylum in Russia.
Prior to that he had passed to the press information about mass electronic surveillance by the U.S. authorities under the PRISM programme and claimed that American security services watched and recorded people’s actions and conversations even if they did nothing wrong.
He said security services were gathering information primarily about the users of popular search servers and social networks.
On August 1, Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year.