A Russian government spokesman Monday refuted media reports that suggested that Moscow is considering handing over the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden as a “gift” to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for the president of Russia, clarified that the issue has still not been discussed with the new administration, while adding that Russian officials are on the fence about whether or not Snowden should be granted Russian citizenship.
"No, this issue (Snowden’s fate) was not raised (during the Russian-US contacts)… at the moment it is not among bilateral issues," Dmitry Peskov, Presidential spokesperson told reporters Monday, according to the TASS news agency.
Reports suggesting that Russia is considering handing him over to U.S. authorities, which have since been debunked by the Kremlin, cited unnamed senior U.S. officials who claimed to have analyzed intelligence reports detailing conversations between Russian officials.
Snowden had earlier reacted to the reports by linking an NBC News article to his tweet on Friday night, adding: "Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.”
In his tweets, Snowden also implied that the rumors were a result of his criticism of Russian government’s new law that allows surveillance in a bid to counter terrorism in the country. Snowden has dubbed it the “Big Brother” law.
Last week, Edward Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena Tuesday expressed hope that President Donald Trump may end Snowden’s exile and grant him clemency by dropping the case against him.
“We hope very much that the new U.S. president would show some weighted approach to the issue and make the one and only correct decision — to stop prosecution against Edward Snowden,” Kucherena was quoted saying to RIA Novosti, while adding that his client loves and misses his home country.
"The way I see it, he [Donald Trump] would gain far more authority if he saw to it all insinuations about Edward Snowden were brought to an end," Kucherena said as quoted by the TASS news agency.
However, Trump has remained critical of Snowden. In a debate in March, he reportedly said: “I said he was a spy and we should get him back. And if Russia respected our country, they would have sent him back immediately, but he was a spy. It didn’t take me a long time to figure that one out.”