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Relations with the US more important than Snowden: Russia

Published: 24th July 2013 04:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th July 2013 04:56 PM   |  A+A-

By PTI

Russia did not want to hurt its relations with the US over American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who is presently staying in Domodedovo airport at Moscow seeking temporary asylum, a senior envoy said today.

"Snowden's visit to Moscow was quite unexpected by Russia. Our President Putin made it clear that we do not want to hurt our relations with the US on Snowden. We do not want to undermine our relations with America on Snowden," Russian Consul General in Southern India Nikolay A Listopadov told reporters here.

"The relations we share with the US are important than Snowden.He came uninvited," he said, "at the same time, it is a very important issue, since it is a humanitarian issue."

Asked whether there were possibilities of sending the former CIA employee back to the US, where he might face espionage charges, he said, "Our stand in the issue is clear cut. On humanitarian grounds, our law does not allow us to send back someone who is facing danger in his home country because that will be contradictory to our law."

After leaking details of several US government mass surveillance programs to the press, Snowden went to Hong Kong and later landed in the Russian capital on June 23, where the former US spy agency contractor is living for more than a month now in the airport's transit area.

Replying to a query, Listopadov said, "He did not want to get asylum in Russia. He landed in Moscow incidentally. He actually wanted to go to other countries like Venezuela, Ecuador."

Elaborating on the issue, he said, "We do not have any extradition treaty with the US. We had approached the US to sign the extradition treaty with us, but they refused."

Recalling Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's extradition from Thailand to the US, where he is kept in prison, he said, "We believe that his trial was biased. We want them to send him back to Russia, where we want to make a detailed enquiry.

But he continues to be there. Since we don't have the extradition treaty, he remains there."

Asked about the delivery of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which India is planning to induct in its Navy after refit as INS Vikramaditya, he said, "Right now, tests are going on successfully. It has left the dock and is at sea doing different tests. By this year, the ship should be supplied to India."

Replying to a query, the Russian envoy said that second unit of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) would attain criticality in "several months or half a year."

Elaborating on the construction of five more reactors in the Kudankulam nuclear complex, he said, "First unit has already attained criticality on July 13. Once the first two units starts production, it will be easier for us to continue with the rest."

Commenting on the local protests in Kudankulam, he said, "I don't think there is huge resistance. There is some outside influence. You know, there are these professional anti nuclear activists across the world. But, once power generation happens in unit 1, people will know it is safe and very much useful."

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