Putin Offers 'Human Rights Defender' Comey Asylum in Russia, Compares Him to Snowden

The Russian leader made the comments while questioning U.S. interference in the elections of other countries through government funded NGOs

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to journalists following a live nationwide broadcast call-in in Moscow, Russia June 15, 2017.
Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered former FBI director James Comey asylum in Russia on Tuesday, saying Comey was a "human rights activist" who is comparable to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The Russian leader made the comments during a citizen's question and answer session in which he was asked about the testimony the former FBI head gave to the U.S. Senate's Intelligence Committee last week.

"What is the difference then between the FBI director and Mr. Snowden?" Putin asked, referring to the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, who was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 after leaking classified information about U.S. spy operations. 

"In this case, he (Comey) is not the head of a special service but a human rights activist who defends a certain position," Putin said. 

"By the way, if he (Comey) is subject to any sort of persecution in connection with this, we will be ready to give him political asylum in Russia. And he should know about this."

Referring directly to testimony he said: "I am not familiar in detail with the testimony given by former FBI director Comey. Again, he gave no evidence of this (Russian meddling)." 

"And what about constant U.S. propaganda, constant U.S. support of America-oriented non-government organizations by giving them money directly? Isn't it an impact on our minds? Isn't it an attempt to influence how we should behave during election campaigns? This continues year after year," he said. 

Putin, in a combative mood, said many heads of state around the world had told him of similar U.S. meddling in their internal affairs. But they would not voice their concerns openly, fearing to "spoil relations" with Washington, he said. 

As for Russia, "we have an opinion of our own, we express it openly. But this is not any sort of underground subversive activity", Putin said. 

Putin added that it was "very strange" for a former FBI chief to leak details of his conversations with the U.S. president to the media through a friend of his.