Edward Snowden (Tanya Lokshina/HRW)
Edward Snowden with human rights groups representatives in Moscow (Tanya Lokshina/HRW)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said that surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and has applied for temporary political asylum with Russia, will leave the country "as soon as he can".

"He [Snowden] is familiar with the conditions of granting political asylum, and judging by the latest statements is shifting his position [on anti-US activities]. The situation is not clear now," Putin said.

During a meeting with members of human rights organisations, the NSA's former IT contractor announced that he was planning to submit a temporary asylum request to Russia while he tried to set up for safe passage to Latin America.

Snowden has reportedly received offers of asylum from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador but has been unable to find an air route to any of them that does not go through US airspace or that of a US ally.

Before the meeting, the whistleblower had reportedly withdrawn an earlier asylum request to Russia after Putin said he would be welcome in the country only if he stopped "anti-US propaganda".

The Russian president stressed that Snowden flew to Moscow purely as a transit passenger.

"He arrived on our territory without an invitation, he was not flying to us - he was flying transit to other countries. But as soon as he got in the air it became known, and our American partners blocked further flight," Putin said.

Snowden, who has been stripped of his US passport, has been trapped in the airport since 23 June after flying in from Hong Kong, from where he leaked top secret documents detailing the NSA's Prism surveillance programme.

"No one wants to accept him," Putin added.

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