Nightly News   |  June 25, 2013

Putin refuses to return Snowden to US

Russian president Vladimir Putin said NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a “free man” and “the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it will be for all of us.” Meanwhile, Snowden is reportedly hiding somewhere inside Moscow’s massive airport. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> now we turn to what's been a big question for days. where is edward snowden . the american who skipped the country after going public with intelligence gathering . vladimir putin says he's in russia and russia is not going to step in to get him back to the united states . we begin tonight with our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: official word that snowden was hiding out at the moscow airport came from vladimir putin , the old kgb man himself. rejecting appeals to return snowden to the u.s.

>> mr. snowden is a free man, and the sooner he choses his final destination the better it will be for us and him.

>> reporter: putin said he would prefer not to deal with an issue at all. russia 's foreign minister tried to claim snowden wasn't technically in russia while in the airport's transit lounge. a diplomatic word game the secretary of state wasn't buying.

>> we're not looking for a confrontation, we're not ordering anybody, we're simply requesting under a very normal procedure, for the transfer of somebody --

>> reporter: so where exactly is edward snowden tonight? jim maceda in moscow .

>> reporter: snowden is somewhere here inside moscow 's massive airport. in a part that russian's claim is not technically in russian territory, it's a no man's land for the most wanted fugitive in the world.

>> reporter: china may no attempt to stop snowden from escaping to moscow . he reportedly told a chinese newspaper he took the nsa contractor job last april for the express purpose of exposing secret programs.

>> if we look at what he's done, the movement to hong kong , taking the four laptops, this has been a pretty methodical approach by snowden . it wouldn't shock me that he planned this going in.

>> reporter: officials assume snowden has left encrypted files with allies, if he is arrested his secrets will still be published. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.