Putin: Edward Snowden is a 'free person' and accusations of Russia aiding him 'nonsense'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Edward Snowden, the fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower, was in a transit zone in the Moscow airport.

Putin called any accusations of Russia aiding Snowden "nonsense." While speaking to reporters in Finland, Putin stated that there was no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, adding that Snowden had not committed any crime on Russian soil.

"Snowden is a free person. The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and Russia," Putin said.

Earlier, Russia called US claims that it aided Snowden "unfounded and unacceptable."

US State Department Press Office Director Patrick Ventrell refused to comment on the issue in a press conference on Tuesday, citing ongoing negotiations. 

Though Snowdon boarded a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Tuesday that he had not crossed the Russian border.

Technically, if the 30-year-old contractor remained in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport and did not go through immigration, he would not have entered Russian territory.

Washington believes Snowdon — charged with disclosing secret US surveillance programs — is in Moscow waiting for news of an asylum request to Ecuador.

Snowden has not been seen in public since he left Hong Kong. He had a ticket for a flight bound for Cuba on Monday afternoon, but failed to board.

The BBC cited a source as saying that he was traveling with Wikileaks legal researcher Sarah Harrison.

Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy website's founder, said Monday that Snowden was safe, although "due to the bellicose threats coming from the US administration we cannot go into further detail at this time."

Assange was speaking via teleconference from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where Assange is holed up — he says because of US ambitions to extradite and try him for treason. Assange said:

"We are aware where Mr Snowden is, he is in a safe place and his spirits are high." 

Meanwhile, Lavrov said US attempts to blame Russia for his disappearance were "groundless."

"We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world."

Washington has already taken China to task over allowing Snowdon to leave Hong Kong, against their wishes that he be detained and handed over to US authorities for extradition.

Secretary of State John Kerry has dubbed Snowden a traitor to his country and warned both Russia and China that their relations with the US might be damaged by their refusal to extradite him.