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U.S. Sen. Menendez: Russia must return Snowden

U.S. Sen. Menendez: Russia must return Snowden

PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden deals a blow to bilateral ties, U.S. lawmakers said Thursday, Aug 1, according to RIA Novosti.

“Regardless of the fact that Russia is granting asylum for one year, this action is a setback to US-Russia relations,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said in a statement, hours after Snowden’s lawyer in Moscow announced his client had been granted one year asylum in Russia and left a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

The White House did not issue any comments but was expected to make a statement later in the day.

Menendez, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said Snowden “will potentially do great damage to U.S. national security interests” and that his leaks on secret U.S. government surveillance programs “could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country.”

“Russia must return Snowden to face trial at home,” Menendez said.

Sen. Tom Coburn said in a television interview with MSNBC on Thursday that Snowden’s asylum “probably hurts the relationship” between Russia and the United States.

“He’s undoubtedly in my mind a traitor to our country and probably most of what he knows, the Russians already know. … It’s a gold mine for them,” Coburn said.

In a post on his Twitter feed, Sen. John McCain, a consistent and fierce critic of the Kremlin, needled Snowden for seeking refuge in a country that has come under fire from Western governments and rights groups both inside and outside Russia over its record on human rights.

“Snowden stays in the land of transparency and human rights. Time to hit that reset button again,” McCain said, referring to the so-called “reset” policy with Russia that U.S. President Barack Obama embarked on to better ties with the Kremlin after taking office four years ago.

Snowden is wanted in the United States on espionage and theft charges after leaking classified information about the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Menendez said that Snowden “is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia.”

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