MOSCOW, April 17 (UPI) -- NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance during Russian President Vladimir Putin's Q&A to ask the leader a question about surveillance.
"Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals? And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations could justify places in societies rather than subjects under surveillance?" Snowden asked Putin via video.
In addition to saying that Russia did not have the technological capability to have a mass surveillance system like the one used by the NSA, Putin noted it's against their laws.
"Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for an intelligence service. We are going to talk one professional language," said Putin. "We don't have a mass system of such interception. According to our law, it cannot exist."
Though the question is a valid one, the interaction between Snowden and Putin seemed to many to be a PR stunt. Russia has had very tense relations with both the EU and the U.S. since the annexation of Crimea and continues with the escalating conflict in Ukraine. Along with taking the attention of Ukraine, it was a chance for Putin to compare Russia to the U.S. and their highly controversial surveillance practices.
Snowden's asylum in Russia has been another thorn in Russia's relations with the U.S., with the Obama administration requesting his extradition so he can face criminal charges for leaking classified information. Putin has refused such requests.