The tough American sanctions on Russia is mainly because of its destabilising acts in Ukraine and has nothing to do with American whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was given a three-year Russian residential permit, the US said today.
"It is important for people to understand, and I think this has been made crystal clear to (the Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin, that the sanctions are related to the destabilising actions that Russia has taken in Ukraine and along the border with Ukraine," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
"That includes the illegal annexation of Crimea, the deployment of some troops in a threatening way along the Russia-Ukraine border. It also includes, you know, the evidence that we've seen of attacks being launched from the Russian side of the border against Ukrainian military targets," he said in response to a question.
"We've also seen the transfer of heavy weapons from the Russian side across the border into Ukraine and into the hands of Russian- backed separatists. All of those actions are what led to the sanctions regime that's been put in place by the United States and our allies and partners all around the globe," he said.
"The Snowden situation is a different one," he argued.
"As it relates to Snowden, our position hasn't changed. He's accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. That's why we believe that he should return to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be afforded full due process and protections that are allowed to U S citizens under the law," Earnest said.
The 31-year-old former US intelligence employee arrived in Moscow last year after leaking a trove of classified information that exposed the US government's foreign and domestic surveillance activities.
Russian authorities initially granted Snowden refuge and offered him a yearlong temporary asylum visa. Now Russia has provided him with a three-year residency permit that allows him to live and work in Russia and leave the country for up to three months a year.