Spy-to-spy: Putin fields surveillance question from Snowden on live TV
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:04PM EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin fielded a question from U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden during an appearance on a televised call-in show in Moscow Thursday, months after Snowden received asylum in Russia for leaking American spy secrets.
Sitting on a stage before a studio audience, Putin answered questions on Ukraine, the U.S. and economic sanctions. The lengthy question-and-answer session was broadcast on Russian state television.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of classified documents last year, posed a pointed question about mass surveillance in Russia via video link: “Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals and do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance?”
It is not clear if Snowden’s on-screen appearance was pre-recorded or live. Snowden now lives in Russia after being granted asylum there last year.
After receiving a translation, Putin responded in Russian, saying that as a former intelligence agent, he and Snowden could speak “one professional language.”
Putin said Russia’s intelligence efforts are strictly controlled by society and regulated by the law. He denied that the Kremlin spies on Russian citizens.
“We don’t have a mass system of such interception, and in accordance with our law, it cannot exist,” Putin said. “Of course, we know that criminals and terrorists use technology for their criminal acts and of course, special services have to use technical means to respond to their crimes, including those of a terrorist nature.”
Putin added: “We do some efforts like that, but we do not have mass scale, uncontrollable efforts like that. I hope we won’t do that, and we don’t have as much money as they have in the States and we don’t have these technical devices that they have in the States.”
The Russian president also fielded questions about the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, denying Moscow’s involvement in the recent unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Putin also responded candidly to a young girl who posed a hypothetical question: Would U.S. President Barack Obama come to his rescue if he was drowning?
“He’s a decent and brave man, he would do it,” Putin said.
With files from The Associated Press