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Putin on Snowden: 'I envy him'

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Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia and each year’s rightful recipient of Time’s Person of the Year award, gave a four hour press conference on Thursday in which he said he envied former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Snowden, who leaked a massive trove of classified National Security Agency surveillance documents last spring, has been living under temporary asylum in Russia. “I don’t know Mr Snowden. I have never met him personally,” Putin said. “I have other important things to do...I won't hide that he seems very interesting to me.”

Since Snowden revealed the NSA’s massive online surveillance operation, “the mentality of the world has changed for millions of people,” Putin said. “I envy him. I envy him because he is able to do this and nobody will do anything to him for that.” He also added, “We don’t bother him with questions about what was being done in relation to Russia at the agency he worked for.” 

Given Russia’s storied history of oppressing journalists in Russia (the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked it the 9th worst country in the world on its Impunity Index) and its abysmal press freedoms (it’s ranked 148th in the world by Reporters Without Borders) it’s difficult to see what exactly Putin envies in the government-transparency advocate.

But there’s no need to put to fine a point on this. Here are a few other topics Putin touched on during the conference: State run media companies should be run by “patriots”; Pussy Riot should be pitied, not for being in prison, but for degrading women; and, incredibly, those who attack the most powerful politicians in order to gain power sometimes “shoot themselves in the foot.”

Photo by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr