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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video of Snowden Asking Putin About Surveillance

Video of Edward Snowden asking Vladimir Putin a question on Thursday during a live broadcast on Russian state television.

As my colleague David Herszenhorn reports, the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance on Russian television on Thursday, asking President Vladimir Putin a question about surveillance during an annual call-in program in which the nation’s president fields questions from the public.

Video of the exchange, with an English translation of Mr. Putin’s reply â€" that his nation does not have the same capabilities as the United States and intercepts communications only with court approval â€" was quickly posted online by RT, the state-owned satellite channel formerly known as Russia Today.

In reply to Mr. Snowden’s question, “does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” Mr. Putin said, “Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent. I used to work for an intelligence service. Let’s speak in a professional language.”

“Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law,” he added. “You have to get a court’s permission first.”

Noting that terrorists use electronic communications, Mr. Putin also said that Russia “of course” used surveillance. “But we don’t use this on such a massive scale and I hope that we won’t.”

Mr. Snowden’s appearance on the broadcast, which is thought to be heavily scripted by the Kremlin, led to immediate criticism from some observers, including the columnist Anne Applebaum, who has written a history of the jailing of dissidents during the Soviet era.

Watching from Ukraine, the Kiev-based journalist Myroslava Petsa suggested that Mr. Snowden should have asked Mr. Putin about Pavel Durov, the founder of the Russian social network VKontakte. On Wednesday, Mr. Durov revealed in a post that Russia’s intelligence agency had asked his company in December to hand over personal details of Ukrainians who were using it to organize antigovernment protests in Kiev.

According to a translation from Mashable, Mr. Durov wrote: “Our response has been and remains a categorical refusal â€" Russian jurisdiction does not extend to Ukrainian users VKontakte.” He added: “Giving personal details Ukrainians Russian authorities would not only be against the law, but also a betrayal of all those millions of people in Ukraine who have trusted us.”

At an earlier stage of the interview, foreign correspondents in Moscow noted, Mr. Putin referred to eastern Ukraine as New Russia, an old name used in Czarist times.