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article imageRussia rejects US demands for Snowden's extradition

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 25, 2013 in World
Moscow - It is widely believed that when Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia could not return Snowden to the US because he "has not crossed the Russian border," he was only engaging in wordplay. What he meant was that Russia has no intention to turn him over.
According to The Guardian, US officials, aware of the tendency of Russians to engage in diplomatic technical wordplay, are trying to determine exactly what the Russian foreign minster Sergei Lavrov meant when he said Snowden "has not crossed the Russian border."
Lavrov responded "sharply" on Tuesday to warnings by US officials that Moscow should turn over Snowden, saying: "I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr. Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world."
According to Lavrov at a press conference with the Algerian foreign minister, Snowden "chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media. He did not cross the Russian border."
The New York Times reports Lavrov said: "He didn't cross the Russian border, and we consider the attempts we are seeing to accuse the Russian side of violating United States law as completely ungrounded and unacceptable, or nearly a conspiracy accompanied by threats against us. There are no legal grounds for this kind of behavior from American officials toward us."
Lavrov's statement was in response to a threat issued by US Secretary of State John Kerry, that Russia's failure to turn over Snowden could be a violation of "rule of the law." Kerry said: "We have returned seven prisoners to [Russia] in the last two years that they requested. I think its very important to them to adhere to the rule of law and respect the relationship."
Russian officials claimed on Monday that they have no information about Snowden's whereabouts is being greeted with incredulity as Russian police were seen standing on the tarmac around the plane that was supposed to take him to Cuba.
The New York Times notes that sharp-toned threats issued by Kerry were unexpected because "there was no reason to believe that they could force Russia to cooperate and because it is highly unlikely that, if the roles were reversed, the United States would readily repatriate a Russian fugitive security official reportedly carrying computers filled with government secrets."
The Guardian's Moscow correspondent, Miram Elder, notes that Lavrov was careful not to say that "Snowden is not in Russia and has never been in Russia," rather he said Snowden "did not cross the Russian border," very likely meaning, as Digital Journal reports, that he is being kept in the transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
The New York Times notes that he could be allowed to remain in the transit area of the airport because he does not require a Russian visa to stay there. According to some reports in the Russian media, there may be no limit to how long a transiting passenger could remain in the transit area.
Digital Journal reports that an official source claimed that Moscow could not arrest or deport Snowden when he has not crossed Russia border.
The Guardian's Miriam Elder notes a similar ploy at diplomatic wordplay in the recent claims by Russian officials that the country is not selling S-300 weapons systems to Syria when what they really meant to say was that they were not accepting new orders but fulfilling orders made in the past.
Elder speculates that Lavrov could also have meant by his assertion that the fugitive has not crossed Russia's border that he was whisked away from the Hong Kong-Moscow flight into another without going through passport control and without getting to the transit area.
She reports speculations about a black car that passengers spotted on the tarmac when Snowden's plane arrived from Hong Kong. The car could have been a diplomatic vehicle waiting to whisk him off to an embassy, in which case it would be technically correct to say that he never crossed the Russian border even while he is physically living in Russia.
The Guardian concludes that until Lavrov says "Snowden is not in Russia and has never been in Russia," it would be uncertain exactly what he meant.
Meanwhile, AP reports that a State Department official has said the United States is in touch with the countries that it believes Snowden could pass through or approach for asylum.
According to a statement by the Justice Department, the US government would "pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel."
AP notes that the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. However, it does with Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador, although any of these countries could decide to grant Snowden an exemption.
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