— LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a rare diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama called off an upcoming Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, sending a stern message of disapproval over Russia's harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Although U.S. frustration with Moscow has been growing over other key issues such as missile defense and human rights, it was Russia's decision to grant Snowden asylum in defiance of Obama's repeated requests that dealt the latest blow to uneasy U.S. relations with a former Cold War foe.
Wednesday's announcement is likely to further strain the relationship, even as the U.S. seeks Russia's cooperation on Syria and other pressing issues. Canceling the meeting, scheduled for early September, denies Putin a prominent moment just as global attention will be turning to a major economic summit that Russia will be hosting.
Airing its own disappointment, Russia's government said Obama's decision showed the U.S. is unable to develop relations with Moscow on an "equal basis." Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, played down the Kremlin's role in the Snowden controversy, describing the American's status as a situation that "hasn't been created by us."
"Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues," Ushakov said, adding that the invitation to Obama to visit Moscow next month still stands.
Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, but a top White House official said the president has no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Putin while there. Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, the president is adding a stop in Sweden to his early-September itinerary.
Obama, traveling in California, said Tuesday that Russia's decision to grant Snowden asylum for one year reflected the "underlying challenges" the U.S. faces in dealing with Moscow.