MOSCOW (Reuters) - American fugitive Edward Snowden was offered a job by Russia’s top social networking site on Thursday, hours after the former intelligence contractor received a year-long asylum in Russia.
“We invite Edward Snowden to Petersburg and will be happy if he decides to join the star team of programmers at VKontakte,” Pavel Durov, one of the founders of the St. Petersburg-based VKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, said on his profile.
Snowden’s temporary asylum papers allow him to work in Russia, according to Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer close to the Russian authorities, who has been assisting the American.
Moscow has refused Washington’s repeated requests to hand over the 30-year-old to face trial on espionage charges after he leaked details of secret U.S. surveillance programs involving phone and Internet data.
Seeking to avoid U.S. prosecution, Snowden arrived to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 has been stuck in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport for more than a month before slipping out on Thursday with new refugee documents.
The spat over Snowden’s fate has added to tensions between Russia and the United States, already at loggerheads over the conflict in Syria as well as other defense and human rights issues.
But Snowden is also a useful propaganda tool for Moscow, which often accuses Washington of preaching on human rights abroad what it does not practice at home.
Durov of VKontakte, or “InTouch”, which says it has more than 210 million registered profiles and up to 47 million daily users, said he took pride in Russia’s decision to harbor Snowden.
“Today Edward Snowden - the man who denounced U.S. security services’ crimes against citizens of the whole world - received temporary asylum in Russia,” Durov said.
“In such moments one feels pride with our country and regret over the course taken by United States - a country betraying the principles it was once built on,” he added.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Leslie Gevirtz