Snowden Still at Moscow Airport, Russia's President Vladimir Putin Confirms

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Carol Hills: I'm Carol Hills filling in for Marco Werman and this is The World. Edward Snowden is in Russia, although technically, he's not. That's the message from Russian President Vladimir Putin today. Putin confirmed that Snowden, whose leaks revealed the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program is the transit area of Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which means he hasn't officially set foot on Russian territory yet, but in any case, Russia is rejecting US demands to extradite Snowden. Miriam Elder is following the Snowden drama in Moscow for London's Guardian newspaper. Miriam, first of all, tell us what's the latest. Is Nowden still in the transit area?

Miriam Elder: If Putin is to be believed than Snowden is indeed inside the transit area at the airport. The problem is that we've had loads of reporters swarming all around the airport for going on three days now, and no one has seen him, there have been no photographs, there's been no video. There's plenty of press inside Russia that has a very good relationship, to put it lightly, with the security services. The media is quite state-controlled and we still have no evidence that he's actually ever been here. So he's hiding away somewhere or being hidden somewhere.

Hills: So the transit area if I get this correctly, that's the area you arrive in the airport, you're transferring to a different flight and so you don't have to go through security again, so you're sort of in these designated areas that allow you to catch your next flight. Is that correct?

Elder: Yeah, that's right, and the thing is there's all different kinds of transit areas. There's VIP lounges and [inaudible 01:20], just like most airports. It's massive, so there's all these kinds of doors. You don't understand where they go, and these tunnels, so I mean he could be anywhere. And there's been such an increased security presence there at times that it wouldn't surprise me if he were being hidden away somewhere.

Hills: And Russia saying that Snowden has not crossed into Russian territory, is this technically correct?

Elder: As far as I understand it, yes. I was speaking with some people yesterday from the state airline Aeroflot. They, you know, were joking around how hey, we're not technically in Russia right now, we're on international territory. So I do understand that to be the case.

Hills: So I read, it was actually in your coverage, that a person traveling through a transit area in Moscow is normally allowed to stay just 24 hours. It's been longer than that for Snowden, so is Russia technically harboring a fugitive?

Elder: Well, I don't know if they're harboring a fugitive, but they're certainly facilitating his time here. I can't think of many cases where a citizen would be allowed to kind of wander the halls of this airport for as long as they wanted. And Putin has stayed quiet, the Russians in general have stayed quiet for so long while there's been so much speculation, so if anything, I think the Russians are guilty of at least obfuscating the situation. Let's put it that way.

Hills: Now, the Russians are refusing to extradite Snowden to the US, and Russian Presence Vladimir Putin says there is no extradition treaty, but he hopes the affair will not affect Russian relations. And Secretary of State John Kerry sort of said the same thing. He wants this to blow over too, but he urged the Russians to turnover Snowden. Do you think this will affect US-Russian relations?

Elder: Russian-US relations are so bad right now. They really haven't been this bad since the end of the Cold War. There are disagreements about Syria. There's some disagreements over human rights in Russia. There are disagreements over everything—missile defense, you name it, there are disagreements right now. This sort of thing has even become expected.

Hills: Miriam Elder is in Moscow. She's been covering the Snowden drama for London's Guardian newspaper. Thanks, Miriam.

Elder: Thank you.