Russia certainly wasn’t on our list of best places to flee to avoid extradition. It also doesn’t sound like it’s among Edward Snowden’s top choices. Nonetheless, that won’t stop Vladimir Putin and his allies from scoring a few easy points, via the Guardian:
Snowden is not known to have made any asylum requests, including to Russia. Yet speaking to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said: “If such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We’ll act according to facts.”
Peskov’s comments were widely carried by the Russian media, which have largely ignored Snowden’s revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) was secretly empowered with wide-reaching authority to collect information from the US mobile provider Verizon and to snoop on emails and internet communications via a data-mining programme calledPrism. Russia’s feared security services are widely believed to maintain similar powers.
Peskov’s comments on potential asylum opened the floodgates on support for Snowden. Robert Shlegel, an influential MP with the ruling United Russia party, said: “That would be a good idea.”
While Putin has clearly proved to be no champion of free speech or dissent within his own borders, he has a history of making similar offers of support for those whistleblowers/leakers from the West. As the Guardian reminds us, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was given a program on the Kremlin’s English-language TV station Russia Today, and earlier this year Putin made a show of welcoming Gérard Depardieu after the French actor declared he wanted to renounce his citizenship in protest of his home country’s tax rates.