Kremlin disappointed over Obama canceling visit
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin voiced disappointment Wednesday with President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but said it remains ready to cooperate with the United States on bilateral and international issues.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters that Obama’s decision reflected America’s inability to develop relations with Moscow on an “equal basis.”
At the same time, he said the invitation to the U.S. president to visit Moscow next month still stands and added that “Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda.”
The cancellation of the summit underscores U.S. dismay over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, as well as disagreements on other key issues, such as missile defense and Russia’s human rights record.
Snowden, an NSA systems analyst accused of leaking highly secretive details about the agency’s surveillance programs, first fled from the U.S. to Hong Kong, then made his way to Russia. He was stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport for more than a month before Russia granted him asylum last week.
Ushakov reiterated the Kremlin’s argument that Russia had no choice but to offer asylum to Snowden in the absence of a bilateral extradition agreement. Snowden has been given asylum for one year, with the possibility of extension.
“This decision is clearly linked to the situation with former agent of U.S. special services Snowden, which hasn’t been created by us,” Ushakov said in a conference call with reporters.
He sought to turn the tables on the U.S., accusing it of stonewalling on Russia’s proposal to sign a bilateral extradition agreement.
“For many years, the Americans have avoided signing an extradition agreement,” he said. “And they have invariably responded negatively to our requests for extradition of people who committed crimes on the territory of Russia, pointing at the absence of such agreement.”
Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said that canceling the summit would deprive Moscow and Washington of a chance to ease the current tensions.
“The U.S. administration decided to pause on a negative note, but that won’t solve problems,” Pushkov said, according to the ITAR-Tass. He called the move “irresponsible.”
Other lawmakers in the Kremlin-controlled parliament were even less diplomatic.
“If they postpone or cancel meetings over the refusal to extradite one person, international relations will freeze,” ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti. “Obama’s decision is a show of disrespect to Russia.”
Communist Ivan Melnikov said, “Obama’s move has proven that we did everything right.”
“The CIA doesn’t want to be put to shame and look like a loser? It’s their problem,” he said, according to Interfax.