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Edward Snowden withdraws Russia asylum request

President Vladimir Putin had said the fugitive whistleblower must stop "harming our American partners."

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Putin said Russia will not hand over fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the United States. (AFP/Getty Images)

Fugitive National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has withdrawn his application for political asylum in Russia, a Kremlin spokesman said Tuesday.

The whistleblower apparently objected to President Vladimir Putin's condition for considering his request: that he stop leaking the United States' secrets.

Russia was one of 21 countries where Snowden sought sanctuary, according to a statement from WikiLeaks. The others include Ecuador, Iceland, China, Venezuela and Cuba.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow after exposing the NSA's PRISM surveillance program. He has been living in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for the past week.

More from GlobalPost: Snowden strains US-Russia relations

Putin said at a news conference Monday that Russia wouldn't hand the American over to the US authorities, but Snowden "must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners" if he wants to stay, Reuters reported.

Snowden "is not a Russian agent," Putin said, adding that Russian intelligence agents were not working with him in the airport.

Putin's comments came shortly after Russia's Public Chamber, a Kremlin consultative body, debated the "social resonance" of the Snowden affair, concluding that Moscow has no grounds for handing the whistleblower over to the US authorities.

The country's human rights community has joined with scores of Russian politicians in taking Snowden's side in a rare instance of agreement.

"It's clear that there is a massive violation of human rights from the side of the United States, and that violation appears on a global scale," RIA Novosti reported Vladislav Grib, deputy secretary of the Public Chamber, as saying Monday.

"Snowden has played his role, and has done it selflessly and openly," he added.

A senior lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Alexander Sidyakin, even suggested recommending Snowden for the Nobel Prize.

In an interview with state television channel Rossiya 24 on Monday, Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said Putin and President Barack Obama have ordered their security agency chiefs to find a way out of the Snowden situation.

"Of course (Putin and Obama) don't have a solution now that would work for both sides, so they have ordered the FSB director (Alexander) Bortnikov and FBI director Robert Mueller to keep in constant contact and find solutions," Patrushev said.

Obama wouldn’t confirm the reports while speaking at a press conference in Tanzania, but he did say the US and Russia have held high-level talks about extraditing Snowden, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Putin's foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters Monday that the Russian president had not discussed the Snowden affair with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during the leader’s visit to Moscow, RIA Novosti reported.

The two presidents are expected to hold extensive talks on Tuesday as part of a natural gas summit.

Venezuela is been widely believed to be one of the few countries where Snowden could successfully seek refuge. Maduro had previously signaled his willingness to grant Snowden asylum.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/130701/putin-snowden-must-stop-harming-our-american-partners-sta