“Snowden is not a traitor. He did not betray the interests of his country. Nor did he transfer information to any other country,” the Russian president told Stone in an interview, featured in a teaser to an upcoming documentary titled “The Putin Interviews.”
In contrast to US President Donald Trump, who once labeled Snowden “a traitor and a disgrace,” the Russian president believes the whistleblower has not done anything “which would have been pernicious to his own country or his own people.”
The snippet of the film by the award-winning director, released by Showtime on Thursday, shows Putin in the driving seat taking on the case of the former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and CIA employee, who leaked classified information on the extent of the NSA’s surveillance to journalists, and is now wanted on espionage charges in the US.
“I think he [Snowden] shouldn’t have done it. If he didn’t like anything at his work, he should have simply resigned,” Putin said.
The Russian leader said that while he cannot personally justify the whistleblower’s methods, he believes Snowden was within his rights to take the decision.
“But since you are asking me whether it’s right or wrong, I think it’s wrong,” he said.
Stone even drew parallels between Snowden’s experience and that of Putin, as the Russian leader quit the Soviet secret service KGB on August 20, 1991 because he did not agree with the coup d’état attempt staged by a handful of hardline Communist party leaders longing to topple Mikhail Gorbachev.
“I resigned because I didn’t agree with the actions undertaken by the government,” Putin told Stone.
Asked about the record of Russian intelligence, Putin stressed that the Russian secret services perform their duties in strong compliance with the law.
“I think they’re working quite well,” he said.
Among the most scandalous facts ever uncovered in the aftermath of Snowden’s leaks was evidence of the US government’s eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and several members of her cabinet, whose phones were tapped by the NSA for several years.
Criticizing the NSA’s methods, Putin argued that by spying on its close allies US only harms itself.
“Trying to spy on your allies if you really consider them allies, and not vassals, is just indecent. Because it undermines trust,” Putin said, adding that such an approach “in the end [inflicts] damage [on] your own national security.”
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia after his US passport was revoked and he got stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in June 2013 while on his way to Latin America, where he had been offered asylum by a number of countries. The whistleblower has since been living in Moscow. Earlier this year, his residence permit was extended until 2020.
The upcoming documentary, titled “The Putin Interviews,” purports to present Putin’s views to the American public that they would not have the chance to hear otherwise, according to Stone.
“Mr. Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say,” Stone said in a recent interview to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The film is set to premiere on June 12.
Last year, Stone released a biographical thriller about Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As he was working on the project, Stone with met with his film’s chief protagonist several times in Moscow in 2014.
‘Total lack of sensitivity:’ German pupil’s deportation to Nepal leaves classmates ‘traumatized’
The ninth-grade pupil, identified as Bivsi Rana, 14, was deported from Germany to Nepal together with her parents on Monday. The migration service officials arrived at her school almost without prior notice and took the girl away to put her on a plane later the same day in a move that “shocked” her classmates and left even the school teachers at a loss, local media report.
Bivsi was born in 2002 in the German city of Duisburg. Her parents came to Germany from Nepal in 1998, and she has never even seen the small Asian country she has now been deported to. Her parents had a residence permit in Germany for years but it expired four years ago, Germany’s Duisburg Radio reports, citing local officials.
Since that time, her parents have repeatedly applied for asylum from German authorities, but their requests were repeatedly rejected. Their latest attempt to gain asylum in Germany failed in 2016 and they were subjected to deportation scheduled for May 29, 2017, Germany’s Focus magazine reports.
It remains unclear why Bivsi did not have the right to German citizenship as someone who was born in Germany to parents who had legal residence permits.
Bivsi’s elder brother, 18, who was also born in Germany and is now a student in the German city of Osnabruck, has not been subjected to deportation, according to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ).
The situation came as a shocking surprise to Bivsi, who burst into tears as migration officials told her she would be deported, Ralf Buchthal, the headmaster of the university-preparatory Steinbart school that Bivsi attended, told WAZ.
“She was totally devastated,” Buchthal said. He went on to say that Bivsi was not allowed time even to say goodbye to her classmates, only to her two best friends.
Bivsi was not the only one traumatized by the incident. Buchthal said that everyone was “deeply shocked” by this incident and the pupils “are still coming to a realization” of what happened to their classmate.
“All girls [in her class] were in tears, there was no consolation for them. One girl – her best friend – even fell unconscious and we had to call an ambulance,” Sasha Thamm, the class’s supervising teacher, told Focus, adding that he was also “thunderstruck” by the news.
However, shock soon gave way to outrage. Bivsi’s classmates are now determined to bring her back, Thamm says, adding that the pupils already contacted the school council and are planning “various other actions [in support of their classmate], including a demonstration.”
The pupils decorated a wall in a classroom with Bivsi’s photos and red paper hearts as well as placards with slogans that read: “We will never give up,” “We will see each other again,” “Bivsi, we will fight for you!” and “The next school trip: Nepal.”
The incident also sparked a wave of indignation among the pupil’s parents. “They [the parents] were embarrassed [by this situation], they wanted to express their solidarity [with the deported girl] and offered their help to bring Bivsi back,” Thamm told Focus.
Buchthal also criticized the actions of the authorities. “I regard the actions of the migration authorities as irresponsible from a pedagogic point of view. It was a traumatizing day for Bivsi’s classmates,” he told the German Rheinische Post daily.
In the meantime, Thamm told the Rheinische Post that some of his pupils “grew skeptical of Germany” following this incident. He also said that the pupils are considering seeking help from such NGOs as Amnesty International and Pro Asyl.
The school authorities also criticized the fact that Bivsi was deported just six weeks before the end of the academic year and was not allowed to finish her studies.
Both the teacher and the headmaster described the girl as a hard-working pupil, who was well integrated and had a “perfect knowledge of German.”
‘There was nothing we could do’
In the meantime, the Duisburg city authorities defended their actions by saying that they are also “on the receiving end of the decision chain” and are obliged to comply with the decisions taken by the federal authorities.
“We try to avoid awkward situations under such difficult conditions. However, we failed to do that in this case and we offer our sincere apology to the affected youth,” the city authorities said in a statement, cited by the Der Western media outlet.
The local authorities also said that they are not allowed to inform people about their deportation in advance.
It is not the first time that the approach of the German authorities to handling deportation cases has provoked an angry reaction. On Wednesday, students in the German city of Nurnberg tried to bar police officers from taking an Afghan student subjected to deportation away from a technical-vocational school.
The attempt to defend their classmate ended up in violent clashes between students and police that left nine officers injured. In an apparent victory for the students, the deportation of the Afghan student was later called off.