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From Russia with no love: Prez Putin dubs Ed Snowden 'unwanted gift'

Unless he shuts his trap, publicly, of course

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has described NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as an unwanted "Christmas present" from America - and hinted that the cornered geek, still hiding out in a Moscow airport, will stop leaking details about US internet surveillance programmes.

Snowden is understood to be seeking political asylum in the former Soviet nation to escape any extradition attempt by Uncle Sam. But Putin has made it clear that will only be possible if Snowden "ceases his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners".

Now the Russian premier has signalled that the ex-CIA technician may have changed his mind about leaking more sensitive American documents.

The world's most exciting IT worker flew to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong on 23 June, hoping to find asylum or at least safe passage to a sympathetic nation.

But the US has extradition agreements or at least friendly relations with most of the countries over whose airspace such a flight would travail, leaving him trapped and unable to flee to sanctuary in South America (here's El Reg's take on how it could be done - aka the Snowden flights boardgame).

The outdoorsy (cough) Russian president discussed Snowden's plight during a visit to the Gulf of Finland, in which he was planning to boost his action man credentials with a deep sea dive in a submersible craft.

He told students that Snowden was an unwanted "Christmas present" from the United States and said it was not yet clear which country would take him in.

The Russian President said: "How should I know? It's his life, his fate.

"He came to our territory without invitation. And we weren't his final destination... But the moment he was in the air... our American partners, in fact, blocked his further flight. They have spooked all the other countries, nobody wants to take him and in that way, in fact, they have themselves blocked him on our territory."

Putin said he hoped that Snowden would leave, but reiterated that the country would offer him sanctuary on the proviso that he give up all political activity.

As soon as there is an opportunity for him to move elsewhere, I hope he will do that," Putin continued.

"The conditions for (Russia) granting him political asylum are known to him. And judging by his latest actions, he is shifting his position. But the situation has not been clarified yet."

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Russian officials had not yet received Snowden’s formal application

Last Friday Snowden, 30, met with human rights campaigners in the airport he is currently calling home. He told them that he was looking to seek temporary asylum in Russia before moving on to a different country. A lawyer told Russia's Interfax news agency that Snowden was currently seeking advice on the matter.

The whistleblower's mood may have been buoyed by news that Professor Stefan Svallfors, a Swedish academic, has written to the Norwegian Nobel Committee calling for him to be given a peace prize.

The sociology professor, who works at Umeå University, said that Snowden had made a "heroic effort at great personal cost" by revealing the existence of a shadowy US surveillance network.

His letter, published in a Swedish newspaper, read:

Through his personal efforts, he has also shown that individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms. This example is important because since the Nuremberg trials in 1945 has been clear that the slogan "I was just following orders" is never claimed as an excuse for acts contrary to human rights and freedoms. Despite this, it is very rare that individual citizens having the insight of their personal responsibility and courage Edward Snowden shown in his revelation of the American surveillance program.

The professor claimed giving Snowden the prize would redeem it from the "disrepute" incurred by what he called the "hasty and ill-conceived decision" to give President Barack Obama the award in 2009. ®

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