The NY Times is reporting that President Obama may cancel his scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin in September amid growing tensions over the fate of fugitive leaker Edward Snowden. If President Obama decides against the trip, it would be a ‘direct slap at Mr. Putin, who is known to value such high-level visits as a validation of Russian prestige.’ This comes as Putin was forced to release opposition leader Alexei Navalny on bail on Friday, after thousands of protesters denounced his five-year jail sentence as a “crude attempt by President Vladimir Putin to silence him.” I hope Edward Snowden realizes that Vladimir Putin is no push-over and he will not be able to roam around Russia freely if he is granted asylum.
The conviction on Thursday of Aleksei A. Navalny, a prominent leader of the opposition to Mr. Putin, on embezzlement charges further underscored the deepening divide between the two countries as the White House pronounced itself “deeply disappointed” at what it called a trend of “suppressing dissent and civil society in Russia.” The verdict and five-year sentence came a week after theposthumous conviction of Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer investigating official corruption who was arrested and died in custody.
“We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
It’s ironic that Vladimir Putin tried to silence Pussy Riot and now Alexei Navalny but he seems to be willing to grant fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum.