Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps insisting that he doesn't want the case of a fugitive American intelligence contractor to harm relations between Russia and the United States.
But Edward Snowden remains an irritant, stuck in diplomatic limbo in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
A Putin spokesman said Friday that the issue is being discussed by the Russian federal security service — the FSB — and the FBI, but it may be that Snowden has become a problem that can only be solved at the top of the two governments.
Fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said in a letter released Monday that he was "unbowed" and thanked his "new friends" for his continued liberty.
The letter is the first time Snowden has broken his silence since he fled to Moscow eight days ago, and it comes on the same day Russian immigration officials say he applied for political asylum in the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to rebuff the United States when he said NSA leaker Edward Snowden was in Moscow but is a "free person" who is "entitled to buy a ticket and fly to wherever he wants."
Snowden, Putin said, is in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport and has neither crossed the Russian border nor "committed any crime" on Russian soil.
Secretary of State John Kerry called the current situation in Syria "unacceptable by anyone's standard" and lashed out at the government of President Bashar al-Assad for using Hezbollah in the fight against rebels.
"Assad chose to raise the stakes militarily," Kerry said. "He chose to attack the Syrian people, but this time using Iranian supporters and using Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization.