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Snowden case threatens to aggravate US-Russia relations

July 18, 2013, 11:36 UTC+3
US Congress proposes to expand the “Magnitsky list” and reconsider the decision to refuse from the implementation of the final phase of European missile defence
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The US Congress is preparing a response in case the Russian Federation provides asylum to fugitive CIA analyst Edward Snowden. It is proposed, in particular, to expand the “Magnitsky list” and reconsider the decision to refuse from the implementation of the final phase of European missile defence. The Kremlin believes that the “Snowden factor” is a legitimate cause for the relations’ worsening. Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena who gives Snowden legal advice said that the ex-CIA employee may request Russian citizenship, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper writes. The more so that refugee status implies a shorter period of consideration of such an application.

However, prominent Russian politicians and political analysts who believe that granting citizenship to Snowden will lead to deterioration of relations with the United States, have opposed this possibility.

Kucherena is certain: Snowden will leave the transit zone as soon as he is handed an official certificate of receipt his application for temporary asylum, and this procedure will take no more than a week. Then Snowden will be staying in a hotel or a refugee centre, observing the migration registration regime. Getting political asylum does not provide for the issuance of a passport: Snowden will not be able to leave Russia with these documents. The refugee status ceases when a person leaves the country.

“We should not cross swords over Snowden, the more so that influential US politicians have already called for boycotting the Sochi Olympics,” the newspaper quotes Federation Council member Igor Morozov who referred to the words of Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham. He said the United States should consider boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics if Russia grants asylum to the leaker.

In the view of head of the Centre for Political Technologies Igor Bunin, blackmail associated with Snowden is spiralling between Russia and the United States. Pressure is exerted from both sides: the Russian side threatens to give Snowden citizenship if, for example, the US president does not arrive in St. Petersburg. “We are threatening to give Snowden citizenship if the US side makes an unfriendly act, and the United States threatens us with unfriendly acts if we provide temporary asylum to Snowden,” the political analyst told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper. “This is purely a diplomatic blackmail struggle.”

The request for temporary political asylum is actually Snowden’s only chance to get out of the legal impasse in which he has found himself due to the persecution by the US government, believes the RF government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. The Americans, according to lawyer Kucherena, themselves are doing everything possible for the fugitive CIA employee’s longest possible stay in Russia. “The United States have made no formal requests for extradition of Snowden,” Kucherena explained. “We hear only political statements from the American side. There are no international law norms, which would allow Russia in this situation to extradite him to America.”

The fact that the US Congress is preparing response measures against the Russian Federation has been confirmed by the author of the Magnitsky Act, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, the Kommersant daily writes. Cardin said that he is not ready to disclose the details, but the response will certainly be given. It looks like the US administration also shares the US lawmakers’ resolute attitude. According to US presidential press secretary Jay Carney, the White House has already transferred to the governments of other countries information about how they should treat Edward Snowden. “Our interest has always been in seeing him expelled from Russia and returned to the United States,” said Carney, noting that Snowden “is not a human rights activist. He is not a dissident.”

The US president’s spokesman has confirmed that Barack Obama is still going to take part in the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, but refused to answer the question of whether a meeting between the presidents of Russia and the United States would be held in Moscow before that.

As for Moscow, it regards “the Snowden factor” as a legitimate reason for the cancellation of the summit and, accordingly, the deterioration of bilateral relations. “Russia has an independent foreign policy, and we will pursue it,” Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday. “I hope that our partners understand it and will take it calmly. Inter-state relations are much more important than squabbling around intelligence services’ activities.”

According to Vice President of the Centre for Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin, Russia thus makes it clear that it can provide asylum to Edward Snowden, but is extremely negative to the US possible response that would exacerbate tensions. “Putin’s statement - it’s a warning: Russia will regard the US response actions as unfriendly steps,” said the expert.

“For the Americans, the stakes are high in the Snowden case - the story with the forced landing of the Bolivian President’s plane in Europe has shown this,” Makarkin said. “Clearly, the United States will not boycott the Olympics, but may well curtail Obama’s visit to Russia.”

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