Former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden has described the Russian government as corrupt ahead of the Trump and Putin summit in Helsinki. The Guardian described Snowden’s criticism of the government as risky, considering his sanctuary status and his limited options.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Snowden with two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. The three charges could have Snowden face up to 30 years in prison if President Putin decides to hand him over to Donald Trump.
In 2014, Donald Trump described Snowden as a coward, a traitor, and a disgrace. The then-reality TV star and businessman also suggested in a tweet that Snowden should be executed by referencing “the old days when our country was respected and strong.”
In an interview with the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the 35-year-old North Carolina native spoke about the Russian government.
“The Russian government is corrupt in many ways, that’s something the Russian people realize. Russian people are warm. They are clever. It’s a beautiful country. Their government is the problem, not the people.”
Snowden also told the German newspaper that Russians are aware that the state TV is an unreliable source of information and the people are not naive to the corruption in the government.
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia after arriving from Hong Kong and has been in the country since 2013. While his current diplomatic status is unclear, he has been granted permission to stay until 2020.
.@snowden has been stuck in Russia for five years now. In an exclusive interview with @sz he tells where he’d rather be, shares his opinion on Russian president Putin and why he’s disappointed with Angela Merkel https://t.co/upolb0bRwI @b_obermayer @f_obermaier #Snowden pic.twitter.com/Ft3YDj3FWD
— Süddeutsche Zeitung (@SZ) June 29, 2018
The former CIA analyst has limited options due to the U.S. influence and relationships with other countries. China denied him access to its mainland while he was in Hong Kong. NATO countries are not willing to sour their relationship with the U.S by granting Snowden asylum.
According to the Independent, Snowden told the German newspaper that he is aware of the risks that come with criticizing the Russian government.
“There’s no question, it’s a risk. Maybe they don’t care, right? Because I don’t speak Russian.”
However, he says his opinions are easy to dismiss.
“And I am literally a former CIA agent, so it’s very easy for them to discredit my political opinions as those of an American CIA agent in Russia.”
When speaking on Snowden last year, President Putin, who is also a former intelligence officer, said he believes the former CIA analyst has been wrong to leak the classified information, but stopped short of calling him 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.”
Snowden was also critical of Angela Merkel’s decision not to grant him asylum, despite his favorable public opinion on Germany.