Tensions run high between cold war foes as a fugitive former US contractor is now at the center of a political tug of war between Washington and Moscow.

Edward Snowden, who leaked details of US spy programs, is hiding out in the transit area of Moscow airport after the US has called for him to be sent home.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Russians will do their own interpretation of their own regulations and their own laws, but they are making the point to them that we think there is a basis for him to be returned.”

Dmitry Trenin an analyst with Carnegie Center in Moscow hinted that the dispute could further fray ties between the United States and Russia

“I think that this crisis can have very negative consequences for Russian-American relations, because, obviously for the American administration, and in particular for Obama, it’s very important that this runaway falls into the hands of American justice.”

He says the US has to be careful in how it talks to Russia.

“For Russia in this situation it’s important not to lose face, and to not worsen relations with the U.S., but at the same time let the Americans know that Russia is a country with which it’s necessary to deal with all due respect.”

Snowden has not been seen in public but Russian officials say he is awaiting a response to an appeal for asylum in Ecuador.