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Putin calls whistleblower Snowden an unwelcome gift from the US

The Russian president has accused the US of preventing intelligence leaker Edward Snowden from leaving the country. He described Snowden as an unwanted Christmas present.

Speaking to students on the island of Gogland in the Gulf of Finland, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden's long stay in the transit area of a Moscow airport had been foisted on the country by the United States. "Such a present to us. Merry Christmas," Putin is reported to have said.

"He arrived on our territory uninvited, he did not fly to us, he was flying in transit to other countries," Putin said in televised remarks. "But as soon as he was in the air, it became known, and our American partners essentially blocked off his further flight."

Snowden's US passport has been revoked by Washington. While he has been offered asylum by three Latin American countries - Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua - getting there from Moscow without passing through US airspace or that of Washington's allies would be difficult.

"They themselves scared off all the other countries, no one wants to take him, and therefore they essentially trapped him on our territory," Putin said.

However, Putin added: "As soon as there's the chance to move somewhere he will certainly do this."

Asked what will happen to Snowden, Putin said: "How would I know? That's his life, his fate."

Russia's Federal Migration Service said earlier Monday that it had not yet received an asylum application from Snowden. Putin said earlier in the month that Snowden could only claim asylum in Russia if he stopped leaking information. Putin welcomes US President Barack Obama to a bi-lateral summit in Moscow followed by a G20 summit in St Petersburg in early September.

Putin said he had told Snowden: "'We have certain ties with the United States. We do not want you through your activity to damage our ties with the States.'"

jm/mz (AP, AFP)