Go back over the transcript of Vladimir Putin's exchange with Edward Snowden. Note how he characterizes Snowden. He was saying that Snowden was nothing more than an ex-CIA spy and so all his yippity-yap about freedom and privacy was hot air. And even before that exchange Putin had gone on record to as much say that in his view Snowden had a screw loose.
Now what does this mean? It means that the entire American news media establishment has great difficulty interpreting events that occur anywhere east of the hazy line in Europe that separates "West" from "East."
It also means it's unlikely that the Russian government put Snowden up to asking that question of Putin. It would be more likely that Snowden did it as his way of thanking Russian activists who'd supported his taking refuge in Russia, in the same way he mustered a few kind words about Bradley Manning to thank Julian Assange for Assange's help.
Although Russia's human rights activists had always supported Russian asylum for Snowden, many Russians hadn't. Many were initially against giving Snowden asylum, for pretty much the same reason they were against allowing NATO supply planes bound for Afghanistan to land on Russian soil. They didn't want to give help to any American for any reason, they were that angry at the USA -- still are.
So the Kremlin practically had to put Snowden in a folk costume and have him sing Bolshevik revolutionary songs on TV before it could get his poll numbers up to the point where granting him asylum became acceptable to the majority.
That's why Snowden had to cool his heels in an airport transit lounge for more than a month; it took time for Russia's government to sell him. And that's why I fell all over myself on my blog thanking the Russian people for giving Snowden asylum.
Did Snowden realize he was getting his ears boxed? Well, he is a very typical Westerner in his thinking, so a great many things east of somewhere around Poland would go over his head. But I'll assume he realized he was being insulted to his face.
Yet again, he was playing the cards he'd been dealt. To have refused a request that he speak up to Putin on behalf of Russians who were very concerned about their own government's surveillance measures would have put him in an even worse position than his question to Putin landed him in. And of course it gave Putin the opportunity to score off the Russian activists.