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Putin on Obama: ‘I envy him because he can do something like this and get away with it’

Putin listens to a question during his annual news conference in Moscow on Dec. 19. (Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

In his annual marathon news conference on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for President Obama's surveillance programs, a day after a review group recommended curbing the National Security Agency's powers. Putin previously defended the programs, calling them "generally practicable" and "the way a civilized society should go about fighting terrorism" during a June interview. Below are some of Thursday's choice quotes from Putin, himself a former KGB agent.

On Obama:

• "How do I feel about Obama after Snowden's revelations? I envy him because he can do this without incurring any consequences."

• "There is nothing to be particularly pleased about, nor is there anything to be particularly upset about. First of all, spying has always existed and it is one of the oldest professions, along with some others that I will not name here."

• "No matter how much our American friends are criticized, at the end of the day I think that their work was mainly directed at fighting terrorism. Certainly, this has some negative aspects, and on a political level, it's necessary to control the appetites of special services by introducing certain rules. But you must understand that overall, it’s a necessity."

• "Let me repeat that I am not going to justify anyone, God forbid. But it is fair to say that overall this is primarily directed at the fight against terrorism, and that these are anti-terrorist measures."

• "After all, why so much data? Because you have to monitor not only a specific terrorist suspect, but rather his whole network of relationships. Keeping in mind modern means of communication, almost nothing can be done by surveying a lone suspect."

On Snowden:

• "I have never met Mr. Snowden personally. I have a busy schedule. He has his own ideas about life and about what to do, how to live. I won't pretend that he doesn't interest me. I think that he did a lot to change the way people look at things, including among the major political figures of our times."

• "When all of this happened, I was curious as to how he came to his decision, because he is quite a young man still. What has he gained from it? He has nothing now. Where is he going to live? He is only just over 30, I think. But this is the choice he made. It's a noble choice but a difficult one. He is an interesting person, but he has his affairs and I have mine."

• "We gave him the chance to live here, as I already said, on condition that he will not engage in any kind of anti-American propaganda while on Russian Federation soil. Whatever leaks are coming from somewhere, they are coming from whatever he left elsewhere around the world. We do not know what he left and where."

• "As I said before and say again now, to use the professional language, our intelligence agencies are not working with him and never did. We are not questioning him either about anything that involved Russia in his former work."

• "He ended up on our territory as a result of the circumstances, you know. I have already explained everything regarding this point. He has to decide his future life for himself. We will neither help him nor hinder him. All we have done is gave him asylum."

This post has been updated to reflect the Kremlin's official translation of Putin's comments. An earlier version contained media translations.

Terri Rupar is The Post's national digital projects editor.



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