Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging economies who met in Russia on Thursday voiced alarm about alleged spying by the United States and likened it to terrorism, a Kremlin spokesman said. The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the concerns were raised at a meeting of officials from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa following reports based on documents leaked by fugitive former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The BRICS participants, meeting at a Group of 20 (G20) summit "expressed a sharply negative attitude about ... evidence of espionage against a number of countries, including BRICS members, and this discontent was not being concealed," he said. He did not specifically mention the United States, but said that "such incidents of electronic espionage and intervention in internal affairs were essentially characterised as ... comparable to displays of terrorism." Peskov did not say which leaders had raised the issue and did not mention any plans for a response.
A Brazilian news programme reported on Sunday that the National Spy Agency, for whom Snowden worked as a contractor, spied on emails, calls and text messages of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Rousseff may cancel a planned White House visit and downgrade commercial ties unless she receives a public apology, a senior Brazilian official told Reuters on Wednesday. Russia has angered the United States by granting asylum to Snowden, who revealed secret US surveillance programmes and fled the country, for at least a year. President Vladimir Putin, who has used Snowden to portray Russia as a protector of human rights and deflect Western criticism on that score, said in an interview published on Wednesday that "it's clear now that we won't give him away".