By Tabassum Zakaria and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The father of Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor, predicted on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will stand up to pressure from Washington as the two nations spar over Moscow’s decision to grant his son asylum.
Lon Snowden’s comments came on the day that President Barack Obama canceled a summit meeting with Putin planned for next month in retaliation for Russia giving refuge to Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s father told Reuters in an interview he was confident Putin would not change his mind and send his son back to the United States to face espionage charges.
“President Vladimir Putin has stood firm. I respect strength and I respect courage,” Snowden said. “He has stood firm against the face of intense pressure from our government and I have to believe that he will continue to stand firm.”
“These games of ‘Well, I’m not going to go to this meeting,’ or ‘I’m not going to go to that meeting,’ … I do not believe that President Vladimir Putin will cave to that,” he said.
The younger Snowden was stuck at a Moscow airport for more than five weeks before Russia granted him a year’s asylum on August 1.
His father hopes to visit Russia this month. He has not spoken to his son since the former National Security Agency contractor left the United States for Hong Kong as news broke in June of leaks he made about U.S. surveillance programs.
“That’s really by design. I would prefer not to speak to him until I’m able to travel and see him face to face. And I look forward to that opportunity,” Lon Snowden said.
When he visits Russia, he will not take items with him or do anything that would be considered aiding and abetting his son and said he did not know how Edward was surviving financially.
“I hope to better assess that situation. I certainly have to be careful because I understand that he’s a fugitive and I’m not going to do anything that could be construed as aid and abet.”
The older Snowden, who was in the Coast Guard for about 30 years before he retired in January 2009, said he “wouldn’t take the unauthorized release of classified information lightly, and I did not initially either. The fact is, is now I have a much greater understanding of what has occurred.”
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Jackie Frank)