Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he believes former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, was wrong to leak U.S. spy secrets, but he is not a traitor.
Mr. Snowden, 33, was given asylum in Russia in 2013 after leaking classified information about U.S. spy operations.
His lawyer said in January that Mr. Snowden had the right to remain in Russia until 2020 and to apply for Russian citizenship in 2018.
Mr. Putin, a former KGB officer and ex-head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, made his comments about Mr. Snowden in an interview with U.S. film director Oliver Stone.
“Snowden is not a traitor, he did not betray the interests of his country, nor did he transfer any information to any other country that would damage his own people,” Mr. Putin said.
However, the Russian leader said Mr. Snowden should have resigned from his job in the same way he once resigned from the KGB rather than leak secrets if he did not like what he was doing.
“He should not have done leaked secrets, my view is that what he did was wrong,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Stone.
The Russian leader said Mr. Snowden had the right to act in the way he did however, saying he agreed that U.S. surveillance had become too intrusive, while praising his own country’s intelligence services for operating within the law.
Mr. Putin also criticised U.S. eavesdropping on its own allies like Germany, saying such activity inevitably backfired.
“Trying to spy on your allies, if you really consider them allies and not vassals, is just indecent.
“It undermines trust, and in the end damages your own national security,” Mr. Putin said.
Snowden has used social media to criticise the Russian authorities over a law obliging communications companies to store phone calls and Internet activity for six months.
However, the Russian authorities have not commented on those remarks.