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In an interview with CNN, former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain called Russian President Vladimir Putin a KGB “apparatchik” and suggested Moscow is deliberately impeding the United States’ attempts to apprehend Snowden.
“We’ve got to start dealing with Vladimir Putin in a realistic fashion for what he is,” McCain told CNN.
“He’s an old KGB Colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian Empire, and he continues to stick his thumb in our eye in a broad variety of ways.”
Putin responded by calling US criticism of Moscow’s handling of the affair “rubbish”.
The Russian president told the press during a visit to Finland that Snowden was still in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, was free to leave and should do so as soon as possible. He also added that Moscow would not hand him over to US authorities, according to statements reported by Reuters.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Snowden had not entered Russian territory and was still in transit to a final destination.
“I want to say right away that we have nothing to do with Snowden, or with his attitude to the American legal system, or with his movements around the world. He chose his own route, and we found out about it – like most people here – from the media,” Lavrov said at a press conference.
“He did not cross the Russian border,” the foreign minister said.
Snowden, accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a representative of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, was being kept out of public view at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport transit area, according to an airport source who spoke to RIA Novosti on Monday after Snowden failed to get on a Cuba-bound plane that he had reportedly been checked in for. Staying in the transit zone of an airport would not constitute crossing the country’s border.