The United States indicated Thursday that it could cancel a planned bilateral summit between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, RİA Novosti reported.
"We have a wide range of interests with the Russians, and we are evaluating the utility of a summit," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing Thursday in reference to the two leaders' planned meeting in Moscow next month, adding that the United States is "extremely disappointed" that Russia has given refuge to Snowden.
Carney declined to discuss if or how Washington might respond in the aftermath of Snowden's asylum and said that while the White House is examining the value of the scheduled Obama-Putin summit, he did not have any changes in the US president's schedule to announce.
Obama plans to travel to Russia next month for the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, a trip which includes the scheduled bilateral meeting with Putin in Moscow.
The comments followed confirmation from Moscow on Thursday that Snowden had been given an official document granting him temporary asylum for one year in Russia. The document allowed Snowden to leave the Sheremetyevo Airport transit zone where he has been staying since arriving in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23, Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer assisting the fugitive, told RIA Novosti in Moscow.
Snowden said in a statement released Thursday by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, which has provided him legal assistance, that his asylum showed that "in the end the law is winning" despite what he called the Obama administration's disregard "for international or domestic law."
"I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations," Snowden said in the statement.
Snowden is wanted in the United States on espionage and theft charges after leaking classified information about surveillance programs operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA), and Washington has repeatedly called on Russia to expel him into American custody.
Carney indicated Thursday that US authorities would continue to press Russia for help in bringing Snowden into the custody of the Americans.
"We will obviously be in contact with Russian authorities expressing our extreme disappointment in this decision and making the case clearly that there is absolute legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States," Carney told reporters.
Both Carney and US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday that Russia did not notify the United States in advance of its decision to grant asylum to Snowden.