Speaking to students on a Russian island in the Gulf of Finland, President Vladimir Putin characterised National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's long stay at a Moscow airport as an unwelcome present foisted on Russia by the US.

Putin argued on Monday that the US had blocked all travel options for Snowden, who had planned only a transit stop in Moscow.

"We weren't his final destination. He was flying to other states. As soon as there's the chance to move somewhere he will certainly do this," Putin said.

"A nice gift to us for Christmas," Putin was quoted as saying by Russian reporters travelling with him. Asked what will happen to Snowden, Russian president said: "How would I know? That's his life, his fate."

Putin blamed the US for intimidating all the other countries so that they would not want to take Snowden.

Asylum question

Edward Snowden was checked in for a flight from Moscow to Havana, Cuba on June 24 but never boarded the plane. His passport has been revoked by Washington, Snowden has been marooned in the airport's transit zone for the past three weeks.

On Friday he said at the airport that he was seeking temporary asylum in Russia before he can safely travel to Latin America. The status of that application is unclear.

The Russian president conspicuously refrained from indicating if or when he might grant asylum to Snowden. Putin said earlier this month that Snowden could claim asylum in Russia only if he stopped his leaks. Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered him asylum.

Washington has reacted sharply to the possibility that Moscow might offer Snowden a safe haven and accused it of providing him a propaganda platform. Putin is set to host US President Barack Obama for a bilateral summit in Moscow followed by the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in early September, reiterated Russia's refusal to damage ties with Washington for Snowden's sake.

Source: Agencies