White House Coy on Russia Travel plans

Jul 16, 2013, 8:11 PM EDT
REUTERS/Yves Herman

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is playing coy over President Barack Obama's travel plans to Russia this fall as Washington and Moscow negotiate the fate of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Obama is scheduled to visit St. Petersburg in September for the Group of 20 economic summit and also stop in Moscow for one-on-one talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But with Snowden seeking temporary asylum in Russia — a request the U.S. strongly opposes — the White House on Tuesday was ambiguous about the president's itinerary.

"The president intends to travel to Russia in September for the G-20 Summit, and I don't have any further announcements with regard to that travel," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Asked whether that meant Obama was skipping Moscow, Carney would only say that he didn't have anything to add to "previous announcements on presidential travel."

Pressed on whether he was being intentionally vague, the White House spokesman said, "I don't have anything to add."

Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23. His limbo status has added another layer of tension to the already complex relationship between Obama and Putin, who has proved an irritant for the U.S. on some international issues, including the civil war in Syria.

Putin on Monday described Snowden's arrival as an unwelcome present foisted on Russia by the U.S. He said that Snowden flew to Moscow intending only to transit to another country, but that the U.S. intimidated other countries into refusing to accept him, effectively blocking the fugitive from further flying.

Snowden, in a temporary asylum request submitted Tuesday, claimed he faces persecution from the U.S. government and could face torture or death.

The former government contractor is facing espionage charges in the U.S. for revealing details of intelligence programs to monitor Internet activity and phone records.


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