OTTAWA – Canada has added its voice to those criticizing Russia for granting asylum to U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
“This is not something that Canada would have considered to do,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.
“It is an example where it does show Russia is a bit of an outlier in the G8.”
Baird’s comments were the first from the Canadian government following the Kremlin’s decision to allow Snowden to leave the transit zone in the Moscow airport where he has been living since late June.
Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Snowden asylum for one year on the condition that he stop leaking information about the U.S. The White House said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision not to turn him over to U.S., which wants to prosecute him for espionage.
Baird’s remarks also echoed the criticism that Prime Minister Stephen Harper levelled at Putin prior to the most recent G8 summit in June in Northern Ireland.
Harper characterized the Russian leader as the outlier of the G8.
“This is G7 plus one. OK, let’s be blunt. That’s what this is, G7 plus one,” the prime minister said at the time.
Harper was referring to Putin’s continuing support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a position that the rest of the G8 does not endorse.
Putin’s apparent defiance of the U.S. in the Snowden case comes after his support of Syria has become a serious irritant in Russia’s relations with the West.
Baird declined to elaborate further on the Snowden matter.
He has blasted Russia for its controversial new anti-gay law, calling it hateful and saying it could incite violence.
Baird also revealed that Russia once again found itself standing alone in the G8 when the issue of sexual minorities was raised at the previous summit in May 2012. Russia said it wouldn’t agree to a statement that expressed support for the group.
“All G7 countries supported and that included centre-right governments in Germany, in France, in Canada, the United Kingdom,” Baird said.
The Snowden affair and Russia’s controversial law, which imposes heavy fines for spreading information about gay choices to minors, as well as banning gay pride rallies, appears to be casting a pall over next month’s G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The White House said it was reassessing whether President Barack Obama would go through with plans for a pre-G20 tete-a-tete with Putin.
A spokeswoman for Harper says Canada does not shy away from raising human-rights issues in its dealings with Russia.