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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Russia: Edward Snowden hasn't "crossed the Russian border," and U.S. demands "unacceptable"

Russia's foreign minister has rejected U.S. demands to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who apparently stopped in Moscow while trying to evade U.S. justice.

Sergey Lavrov said that Snowden hadn't crossed the Russian border and insisted that Russia has nothing to do with him, his relations with U.S. justice or his travel plans.

"He chose his itinerary on his own," Lavrov insisted. "He has not crossed the Russian border."

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, he angrily lashed out at the U.S. demands for the extradition and warnings of negative consequences if Moscow fails to comply.

Lavrov said that accusing Russia of "violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy" with regard to Snowden is "absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable."

He wouldn't specify the location of Snowden, who booked a Havana-bound flight from Moscow Monday but didn't show up on the plane.

As CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported Monday night, the White House believes the former NSA contract employee facing espionage charges is in Russia, and the United States has mounted huge pressure on the Russians to send him home before he can head into asylum in some other country.

An Obama administration official told CBS News Tuesday morning that the White House did not have a formal response to Lavrov's remarks, but noted that the U.S. did not file a formal extradition request with Russia, "given we don't have an extradition treaty."

The official repeated that the U.S. has asked Russia to "expel" Snowden on the grounds that he is wanted on felony charges.

Julian Assange, the founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks who is himself hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for fear of being extradited to Sweden to face questions over sexual impropriety, said Monday that Snowden was bound eventually for Ecuador, but would not say where he was in the meantime.

Assange said that Snowden was, "in a safe place," but added: "we cannot reveal what country he is in right now."

Ecuador is currently "considering" a request from Snowden for asylum.

Snowden's flight to an unknown refuge appears stalled in Moscow. As of Monday night, seat 17A -- which Snowden had reportedly booked on this Cuba-bound jetliner -- remained empty as the plane took off for Havana, Cuba.

It's not clear if Snowden changed travel plans or if Russian security agents blocked his departure. But, U.S. officials are pressing the Russian government to detain Snowden as a fugitive traveling with a revoked passport. Jay Carney is the White House press secretary.

"We have asked the Russians to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday afternoon.

Carney urged Russia not to repeat the actions of Chinese authorities, who allowed Snowden to leave Hong Kong on Sunday.

"This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship," he said.

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