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Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia: An image from a protest in the whistleblower's favor. Photo by Bloomberg
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AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow, July 1, 2013. Photo by AFP

Russia would not hand former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden over to the United States,President Vladimir Putin said on Monday. But if Snowden wants to stay in Russia he "must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners," Putin qualified.

A source in the Russian immigration said Monday that Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia.

Snowden "is not a Russian agent", Putin said, repeating that Russian intelligence services were not working with the fugitive American, who is believed to remain in the transit area at a Moscow airport eight days after arriving from Hong Kong. He said Snowden should choose his final destination and go there.

The United States increased pressure on Russia this week to hand over former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who Washington believes is waiting for news of an asylum request to Ecuador.

Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon and was due to depart for Havana the following day, but did not use the ticket, a Moscow airport source said on Tuesday.

The source said he was travelling with Sarah Harrison. Harrison is a British legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks.

U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that relations with China would not be upset by allegations that it had facilitated Snowden's flight, the fugitive former national security contractor.

Snowden's ability to avoid detention in Hong Kong and travel to Moscow despite a request by the United States that he be arrested initially led to an angry response by Obama administration officials.

The White House last week described the development as a "serious setback"
to U.S.-Chinese relations, while Kerry warned that it would have "consequences"
for ties with Beijing.

But following a meeting with his Chinese counterpart at a conference hosted by Southeast Asian nations here, Kerry struck a conciliatory note, casting the Snowden affair as but one issue among many.