Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has given a green light to sell the country’s newest S-400 air defense guided missile system to China, which Russian media claim will give Beijing an edge in the airspace of the Taiwan Strait and over islands in the East China Sea at the center of a dispute with Japan, reports the military news website of Huanqiu.com, the Chinese-language website of China’s Global Times.
Beijing has been interested in acquiring the guided missile system since 2011. Two years ago, Russia talked with several countries interested in buying the system but was forced to suspend negotiations in order to ensure its supply to the Russian military, the general manager of a Russian national defense export company told Russian newspaper Kommersant in January this year. Export sales of the system may not begin until 2016.
Talk of a potential deal with China drew concerns from Russian security officials who worried that it may not only affect the supply of the system to Russia’s own military but also that China could back-engineer the technology to produce its own systems. The system’s manufacturer Almaz-Antei has eased the former concerns by delivering the first batch of the system. Moscow also announced a plan in January to build three new plants for the contractor in order to build more air defense and anti-guided missile systems. An intellectual property rights agreement that China and Russia signed with regard to the arms trade has also come into effect.
Though in what volume China wishes to acquire the S-400 system is unclear, Kommersant’s source said China wants enough systems to equip two to four battalions. The People’s Liberation Army has already obtained an air defense guided missile system and another command system from Russian and deployed them in the defense of Beijing and Shanghai, according to the paper, which estimated that the country would be able to control the airspace over Taiwan and the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Diaoyu to China, Senkaku to Japan).
Russia does not seek the role of a regional or global hegemony, but will defend its core values and interests, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. All attempts to impose on other nations have failed, he added.
The Russian leader gave an assurance that Russia wants to respect the sovereignty and stability of other countries, as he was addressing the Federal Assembly, the collective of the two houses of the Russian parliament.
“We will seek leadership by defending international law, advocating respect for national sovereignty, independence and the uniqueness of peoples,” Putin said.
“We have always been proud of our country, but we do not aspire to the title of superpower, which is understood to be pretense for global or regional hegemony. We do not impinge on anyone’s interests, do not impose our patronage, do not attempt to lecture anyone on how they should live,” he added.
Putin did not directly mention the United States in his speech, but the reference to Washington’s military actions in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya was hard to overlook.
Those and less direct interventions, like the support of the rebel forces in Syria, have led to regress for the respective nations, Putin stated.
On the other hand Russia’s approach, which rejects the use of force and promotes political dialogue and compromise, have been fruitful in both Syria and Iran, the Russian president said.
The audience listen to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as he gives his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 12, 2013. (Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin)
“In Syria the world community had to make a joint and fateful decision. It was either the continuation of the degradation of the world order, the rule of the right of might, the right of the fist, the multiplication of chaos. Or to collectively take responsible decisions,” Putin explained, praising the world, Russia included, for taking the second path.
It was Russia’s involvement that to a large degree helped to prevent military intervention in Syria and paved the way for the deal involving the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
If this hadn’t happened, the Syrian conflict might have escalated and impacted countries far away from the Middle East, Putin said.
“We acted in a firm, thoughtful and measured manner. At no time did we endanger either our own interests and security or global stability. I believe that this is the way a mature and responsible nation should act,” he stated.
“We need to continue a patient search for a broader solution, which would ensure the inalienable right of Iran to develop its peaceful nuclear energy industry and the security of all countries in the region, including Israel,” Putin said.
Iran and the P5+1 group have signed an interim agreement, which lifts some of sanctions issued against Iran over its controversial nuclear program in exchange for a temporary slowdown of Tehran’s nuclear development.
The deal is hoped to lead to a permanent accord, which would settle the decades-long conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the big question that has been the elephant in the corner as the debate continues about Syria’s possession and use of chemical weapons: What about Israel’s nuclear weapons?
Putin was speaking in defence of Moscow’s position on the Syrian crisis, in particular the chemical weapons issue. Observers were surprised by the reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which is normally off-limits in such international forums, and Putin’s attempt to link the caches of weapons of mass destruction in both countries. The Russian president pointed out that Syria’s chemical weapons have served as a counter to the threat posed by Israel’s nuclear weapons; he called for the Middle East to be a nuclear-free zone.
Continuing to deny the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the chemical weapons attack last month, Putin presented “technical” evidence collected by his advisers. “The attack used an old Soviet shell of a kind no longer used by the Syrian army,” he claimed.
As the war of words between Russia and the US continued on this issue, Secretary of State John Kerry tried unsuccessfully to persuade his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to back a “binding” UN Security Council resolution to remove the Syrian chemical. Nevertheless, Kerry praised China’s support for a political solution, “the only available and possible solution”. The Secretary of State also urged the UN Security Council to vote as soon as possible on the text of a possible resolution that would oblige Syria to respect a plan to dispose of its chemical weapons.
President Bashar Al–Assad has vowed to hand over his regime’s chemical weapons but warned that this could take many months and millions of dollars before the process is complete. In an interview with Fox News, Assad stressed that the ideology of the rebels in his country should be a cause for serious concern not only in Syria but also in neighbouring countries and even the United States. It is not a civil war, he insisted, but “an attack by Al-Qaeda”. Up to 15,000 Syrian soldiers have been killed so far, claimed Assad, but he expressed his government’s willingness to offer an amnesty, “even for those whose hands are stained by Syrian blood”, as an act of national reconciliation. Commentators have pointed out the significance of Assad’s offer, coming as it has after a spokesman for his government said that the conflict is at an “impasse”.
In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Qadri Jamil, said that the Syrian authorities will ask for a ceasefire in the event that the “Geneva 2 Conference” goes ahead. He added that neither side in the conflict is able to win but insisted that there would have to be international monitors for any ceasefire.
The easing of the threat of military action against the Syrian regime has had a positive effect on Lebanon already, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister has claimed. Heading back to Moscow after talks in Damascus, Sergei Ryabkov noted that the flow of refugees across the border into Lebanon appears to have slowed. “If there is a war, however, it will have a negative effect not only on Syria but Lebanon and other neighbours,” he said.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin has been many things to President Obama: a partner at times, an irritant more often, the host of the elusive Edward J. Snowden and “the bored kid in the back of the classroom” who offered so little on the administration’s foreign policy goals that Mr. Obama canceled plans to hold a summit meeting in Moscow last week.
Yet suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis. He is offering a potential, if still highly uncertain, alternative to what he has vocally criticized as America’s militarism and reasserted Russian interests in a region where it had been marginalized since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Although circumstances could shift yet again, Mr. Putin appears to have achieved several objectives, largely at Washington’s expense. He has handed a diplomatic lifeline to his longtime ally in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, who not long ago appeared at risk of losing power and who President Obama twice said must step down. He has stopped Mr. Obama from going around the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds a veto, to assert American priorities unilaterally.
More generally, Russia has at least for now made itself indispensable in containing the conflict in Syria, which Mr. Putin has argued could ignite Islamic unrest around the region, even as far as Russia’s own restive Muslim regions, if it is mismanaged. He has boxed Mr. Obama into treating Moscow as an essential partner for much of the next year, if Pentagon estimates of the time it will take to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile are accurate.
“Putin probably had his best day as president in years yesterday,” Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said in a conference call on Wednesday, “and I suspect he’s enjoying himself right now.”
In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times released on Wednesday, Mr. Putin laid down a strong challenge to Mr. Obama’s vision of how to address the turmoil, arguing that a military strike risked “spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders” and would violate international law, undermining postwar stability.
“It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States,” Mr. Putin wrote. “Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.”
When Mr. Putin returned to the presidency a year ago, he moved aggressively to stamp out a growing protest movement and silence competing and independent voices. He shored up his position at home but, as his government promoted nationalism with a hostile edge, passed antigay legislation, locked up illegal immigrants in a city camp, kept providing arms to the Syrian government and ultimately gave refuge to the leaker Mr. Snowden, Mr. Putin was increasingly seen in the West as a calloused, out-of-touch modern-day czar.
Now he appears to be relishing a role as a statesman. His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said in an interview that the Russian president was not seeking “ownership of the initiative,” but wanted only to promote a political solution to head off a wider military conflict in the Middle East.
“It’s only the beginning of the road,” Mr. Peskov said, “but it’s a very important beginning.”
To get started, Mr. Putin sent his foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, to Geneva on Thursday to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry, in hopes of hammering out the myriad logistical details of putting a sprawling network of chemical sites under international control in the middle of a deadly civil war.
Even that step was another indication of just how much the circumstances have changed in such a short time. Only a week ago, Mr. Putin was accusing Mr. Kerry of lying to Congress about the presence of militants allied with Al Qaeda in Syria. “He’s lying,” he said in televised remarks. “And he knows he’s lying. It’s sad.”
On Wednesday, when Russia submitted a package of proposals to the Americans and others ahead of that meeting in Geneva, Mr. Peskov again used the opportunity to try to paint Russia as the peacemaker to the United States’ war maker. Mr. Peskov declined to release details of the plan, other than to say Russia’s most important condition was that Syria’s willingness to give up its weapons could only be tested if the United States refrained from the retaliation Mr. Obama has threatened. “Any strike will make this impossible,” Mr. Peskov said.
Muzaffar Salman/Associated Press
Pictures of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir V. Putin were displayed in March outside the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Syria
From the start of the war two and a half years ago, Russia has been Syria’s strongest backer, using its veto repeatedly to block any meaningful action at the Security Council. While Russia has ties to the country dating to the Soviet era, including its only naval base left outside of the former Soviet republics, Mr. Putin’s primary goal is not preserving Mr. Assad’s government — despite arms sales that account for billions of dollars — as much as thwarting what he considers to be unbridled American power to topple governments it opposes.
Mr. Putin’s defense of Syria, including continuing assertions that the rebels, not government forces, had used chemical weapons, has at times made him seem intent on opposing the United States regardless of any contrary facts or evidence. Russia has long had the support of China at the Security Council, but Mr. Putin had won support for his position by exploiting the divisions that appeared between the United States and its allies. That was especially true after Britain’s Parliament refused to endorse military action, a step Mr. Putin described as mature.
He also slyly voiced encouragement when leaders of Russia’s Parliament suggested they go to the United States to lobby Congress to vote against the authorization Mr. Obama sought — something he himself would deride as unacceptable interference if the table were reversed.
Mr. Putin’s palpable hostility to what he views as the supersized influence of the United States around the world explains much of the anti-American sentiment that he and his supporters have stoked since he returned as president last year after serving four years as prime minister under his anointed successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev. It was under Mr. Medvedev that Russia abstained in a Security Council vote to authorize the NATO intervention in Libya that ultimately toppled that country’s dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Mr. Putin has made it clear that he would not repeat what most here consider a mistake that unleashed a wave of extremism that has spread across the region.
For now, Mr. Putin succeeded in forcing the international debate over Syria back to the Security Council, where Russia’s veto gives it a voice in any international response. With Russia’s relations with Europe increasingly strained over economic pressure and political issues, the Security Council gives Russia a voice in shaping geopolitics.
At the same time, Mr. Putin carries the risk of Russia again having to veto any security resolution that would back up the international control over Syria’s weapons with the threat of force, as France proposed.
Not surprisingly, given the Kremlin’s control over most media here, Mr. Putin’s 11th-hour gambit was nonetheless widely applauded. “The Russian president has become a hero in the world these days,” the newscast of NTV began on Wednesday night before going on to note that Mr. Putin should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize if he averted the American strike.
There was also satisfaction that it was Mr. Putin who gave an American president whom he clearly distrusts a way out of a political and diplomatic crisis of his own making. Aleksei K. Pushkov, the chairman of the lower house of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Obama should gratefully grab Russia’s proposal with “both hands.”
“It gives him a chance not to start another war, not to lose in the Congress and not to become the second Bush,” Mr. Pushkov said.
Andrew Roth contributed reporting from Moscow, and Rick Gladstone from New York.
The alleged chemical weapons use in Syria is a provocation carried out by the rebels to attract a foreign-led strike, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the G20 summit.
There was no 50/50 split of opinion on the notion of a military strike against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, Putin stressed refuting earlier assumptions.
Only Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France joined the US push for intervention, he said, adding that the UK Prime Minister’s position was not supported by his citizens.
Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy were among the major world’s economies clearly opposed to military intervention.
President Putin said the G20 nations spent the “entire” Thursday evening discussing the Syrian crisis, which was followed by Putin’s bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron that lasted till 3am Moscow time.
Russia “will help Syria” in the event of a military strike, Putin stressed as he responded to a reporter’s question at the summit.
“Will we help Syria? We will. And we are already helping, we send arms, we cooperate in the economics sphere, we hope to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, which includes sending humanitarian aid to support those people – the civilians – who have found themselves in a very dire situation in this country,” Putin said.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gestures during a press conference at the end of the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)
Putin said he sat down with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit and talked for about half an hour in “a friendly atmosphere”.
Although the Russian and the American leaders maintained different positions regarding the Syrian issue, Putin said they “hear” and understand each other.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will continue discussing the situation in Syria “in the short run,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, President Obama reiterated in his summit speech that the US government believes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were behind the chemical weapons use.
Obama pledged to make a good case on the issue for both the international community and the American people, saying many nations are already “comfortable” with the US’ opinion.
While admitting “a number of countries” at the summit stressed any military action plan should go through the UN Security Council, Obama said the US is in a different “camp” that questioned the UNSC effectiveness.
“Given the Security Council’s paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required and that will not come through the Security Council action,” Obama said.
‘A dangerous precedent’
Both presidents stressed that the situation in Syria could create a dangerous precedent, but supported their points with contrasting arguments.
Obama stressed his “goal” and US “responsibility” was to maintain international norms on banning chemical weapon use, saying he wanted the enforcement to be “real.”
US President Barack Obama answers a question during a press conference in Saint Petersburg on September 6, 2013 on the sideline of the G20 summit (AFP Photo)
“When there is a breach this brazen of a norm this important, and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn’t act, then that norm begins to unravel. And if that norm unravels, then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling, and that makes for a more dangerous world,”Obama said.
Putin, on the contrary, stressed that setting precedents of military action outside a UN Security Council resolution would mean the world’s smaller countries can no longer feel safe against the interests of the more powerful ones.
“Small countries in the modern world feel increasingly vulnerable and insecure. One starts getting the impression that a more powerful country can at any time and at its own discretion use force against them,” Putin said, citing the earlier statement made by the South African President.
Such practice would also make it much harder to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program, Putin pointed out.
The meeting of the leaders of the major world economies – G20 – took place in St. Petersburgh, Russia. The participants of the summit focused on economic issues during round-table talks, including unemployment, the lack of global investment, and better international financial regulation. While on the sidelines the conversation shifted to the issue of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria and the possibility of military action in the war-torn country.
Russia needs convincing proof, not rumors, from UN experts that chemical weapons were used in Syria, said the Russian president in an interview with First Channel and AP. It is up to the UN Security Council to decide on the next course of action, he said.
Speaking to journalists from Russia’s state Channel 1 television and Associated Press, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a number of decisive statements regarding the supposed use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, which evoked a threat of a US-led strike on Syria.
“We believe that at the very least we should wait for the results of the UN inspection commission in Syria,” Putin said, adding that so far there is no information about what chemical agent exactly was used in the attack in Damascus’ suburbs and who did it.
“I’ve already said I find it absolutely ridiculous that [Syrian] government’s armed forces, which today are actually on an offense mission and in some regions have already encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that the Syrian army has used prohibited chemical weapons,” Putin said.
“They know all too well that this could become a cause for sanctions and even for a military operation against them. That’s stupid and illogical.”
“We proceed from the assumption that if anyone has information that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regular army, then such proof must be presented to the UN Security Council and the UN inspectors,” Putin said, stressing that the proof must be “convincing” and not based on “rumors” or any sort of “eavesdropped intelligence data,” conversations etc.
“Even in the US there are experts who question the reliability of the facts presented by the administration. These experts do not exclude the possibility that the Syrian opposition has conducted a pre-planned provocation in order to give their sponsors a reason for military intervention,” he acknowledged.
Putin: We are not defending Assad, we are defending international law.
Putin later leveled criticism at US Secretary of State John Kerry as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.
“They lie, plainly. I watched the Congressional debate. A congressman asked Mr. Kerry: “Is there any Al-Qaeda [in Syria]? There are reports they have been growing stronger.” He [Kerry] replied: “No. I say with all responsibility: there is no [Al-Qaeda] there,” Putin explained.
The Russian President then said the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.
“Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked.
Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq.
Powell even brandished some test tube with a white powder as he attempted to persuade the international community that Iraq has chemical weapons, Putin said, stressing that it later turned out that “all these arguments did not hold water.”
Putin says he “does not exclude” that Russia may agree with a military operation if it is proved that the Syrian government is behind the attack, however he emphasized that in accordance with international law a decision of the UN Security Council is needed for that.
“All other reasons and means that excuse using military force against an independent sovereign state are unacceptable and cannot be classified otherwise but as an aggression,” Putin noted.
“We would be convinced by a detailed investigation and direct evidence of who exactly used chemical weapons and what substances were used. Then we’ll be ready to take decisive and serious action,” said the president.
Answering a question about video records of dead children that allegedly died in the chemical attack in Damascus, Vladimir Putin called the material with dead children “horrible”.
“The questions are what exactly was done and who is to blame. This video does not answer these questions,” Putin said, sharing an opinion that this video is a compilation made by the militants who – even the US acknowledges – have links with Al-Qaeda and are notorious for extreme atrocities.
Putin recommended to pay attention to the fact that in the video with dead children there are no parents, children’s relatives or even medical personnel, while people who do appear in the video remain unidentified. However terrible the picture could be, it cannot be proof of anybody’s guilt, Putin said, and called for investigation of the incident.
Russia is fulfilling arms contracts with Syria “because we believe that we are working with the legitimate government and we are violating neither international law, nor our obligations,” assured Putin, stressing that the UN had imposed no sanctions on the export of weapons to Syria.
He confirmed that Moscow has a signed contract with Damascus to deliver S-300 air defense missile complexes to Syria. The S-300 system is kind of outdated, said Putin, “though they might be a little better than Patriot missiles.”
Russia already has deployed S-400 and forthcoming S-500 systems, “[and] these are all certainly very efficient weapons,” Putin noted.
“We have a contract to supply S300 missiles, and we’ve already supplied some parts, but not all of it, because we decided to suspend the supplies for a while. But if we see international law being violated, we will reconsider our future actions, including supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world,” he promised.
That is, of course, how the Kremlin‘s ever loyal media will try to frame it – ignoring the fact that the Russia in which they live treats its own dissidents with a vindictiveness unseen for many decades. The deeper reason behind such a public rebuff is one that the Russian foreign policy establishment will find less easy to explain away.
While Putin considers himself the elder statesmen of such international gatherings, most of his former cronies on the international scene are yesterday’s men. Only Silvio Berlusconi limps on, still a senator and party leader for the time being, but his star is not exactly shining at the moment. These days, Putin is not treated abroad with the respect he thinks his political longevity deserves.
The last occasion to measure this was his trip to Hanover in April, where his German interlocutors, bristling with the fury over moves by Russian authorities to confiscate data from German-financed organisations working in Russia, gave the Russian leader in private a piece of their mind. Contrast that to the time when Putin, informed of Angela Merkel‘s fear of dogs, made sure his pet labrador was in the room when they met. Merkel no longer feels she has to court Russia.
And neither, apparently, does Obama.
This is Putin’s loss, because the architect of the “reset” policy to re-engage with Russia, Michael McFaul, who is now the US ambassador in Moscow, privately agrees that the policy he worked so hard on is now dead. The wording of the White House statement to postpone the summit is relevant in this regard.
It speaks of a lack of progress on missile defence, arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, human rights and civil society … the blockage extends right across the whole spectrum of the relationship defined by the so-called reset. While few expected much progress to be made in any of those fields, the existence of joint committees and regular meetings maintained an illusion of strategic relationship.
The reset has brought concrete benefits to the US, not least the transit of thousands of US troops over Russian airspace to the airbase it leases in Manas in Kyrgyzstan (and then onto Afghanistan). Few pragmatists in the world of foreign policy treat the reset’s demise with any glee. But if Obama is a president who wants to concentrate on those policy areas he can personally affect, his impatience with Putin says a lot about where the US thinks that relationship is headed.
The decision to forgo the summit is a blow aimed at Putin personally. It deprives the Russian leader of a valuable prop, one that tells his domestic audience it has a world leader who can measure his stature again the biggest and the best.
This summer, if the latest stunt is to be believed, Putin caught a huge pike in Siberia, 46lb in weight. If you were the president of the United States, would you really want to appear in St Petersburg as the latest quarry this big game hunter had caught?
Russian President Vladimir Putin with the one that didn’t get away. Photograph: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images
Former NSA contractor Snowden remains in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. President Putin said that Snowden never crossed the Russian border and doesn’t fall under any extradition treaty. He called accusations against Russia “nonsense and rubbish.”
“It is true that Snowden has arrived to Moscow, and it really came as a surprise for us. He arrived as a transit passenger, and didn’t need a [Russian] visa, or any other documents. As a transit passenger he is entitled to buy a ticket and fly to wherever he wants,” Vladimir Putin said as he spoke to journalists in Finland.
Edward Snowden is still at the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Putin stressed. He said that any accusations against Russia are “nonsense and rubbish,” as the former NSA contractor “has not crossed” the Russian border.
The President also pointed out that there is no extradition treaty between Russia and the US, which makes it impossible to extradite people like Snowden.
“We can only extradite any foreign citizens to such countries with which we have signed the appropriate international agreements on criminal extradition,” he explained.
Snowden “has not committed any crime” on Russian soil, Putin added. Russian security agencies“have never worked with and are not working with” the former CIA employee, he also stressed.
“Snowden is a free person. The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and Russia,” Putin said.
He also expressed hope that the Snowden saga would not have any negative impact on Russian-American relations and that the US “will understand this.”
Putin also commented on the situation with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, fearing that he would then be extradited to the US.
“Just like Snowden, he considers himself a rights advocate and fights for sharing information. Ask yourself: should or should not people like these be extradited to be later put to jail?” the President asked.
“In any case, I would like not to deal with such issues because it is like shearing a pig: there’s lots of squealing and little fleece,” he said.