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Chuck Schumer Sees Damaged Relations With Russia Over Edward Snowden (VIDEO)

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WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer charged on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew and approved of fugitive Edward Snowden's flight from Hong Kong to Russia and that it will "have serious consequences" in the U.S.- Russian relationship.

"Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States - whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden," Schumer told CNN's "State of the Union," adding that China may have had a role as well.

"It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong," Schumer said. "As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies and I have a feeling that the hand of Beijing was involved here."

Schumer aimed most of his fire at Putin, saying "it is almost certain he know, and likely approved" the flight by Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who had been hiding in Hong Kong since leaking details about U.S. surveillance activities to news media.

"What is infuriating here is," Schumer said, was Putin "aiding and abetting Snowden's escape."

"This action, Putin allowing Snowden to land in Russia and then go somewhere else, is going to have serious consequences for the United States-Russian relationship," Schumer said. The New York lawmaker is the No. 3 Senate Democrat.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Snowden's reported choice to fly later to Cuba and Venezuela undermines his whistleblower claims.

"Everyone of those nations is hostile to the United States, the Michigan Republican said on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

The U.S. government must exhaust all legal options to get Snowden back to the United States, Rogers said.

"When you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are, it defies logic," said Rogers, who repeated his assertion that Snowden's leaks of secret government surveillance programs had damaged U.S. national security

The United States has been told by Hong Kong that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong for "a third country" and will seek cooperation with countries Snowden may try to go to, a Justice Department official said on Sunday.

"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement.

The United States contacted Hong Kong on Saturday seeking Snowden's extradition, Chitre said.

Hong Kong earlier on Sunday allowed Snowden to leave Hong Kong for a third country. According to a source at Russia's Aeroflot airline, Snowden was traveling to Moscow and was planning to go to Venezuela via Cuba. 

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, David Brunnstrom, Mark Felsenthal and Paul Eckert; editing by Jackie Frank)

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