Snowden applies for Russia asylum

2013-07-16 15:48
(Ole Spata, AFP)

(Ole Spata, AFP)

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Moscow - Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden applied on Tuesday for temporary asylum in Russia, a pro-Kremlin lawyer said, after President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of "trapping" him in the country.

Snowden, wanted by the United States for revealing sensational details of its vast spying operations, is now spending a fourth week in the transit lounge at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport without ever crossing the Russian border.

"The application has been filed with the Russian authorities" through the Federal Migration Service (FMS), said prominent lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who has been in contact with Snowden.

"I have just left him," he told AFP after meeting the fugitive in the transit zone.

In his application, Snowden had written that he was concerned about his safety should he return to the United States, the lawyer said.

"He wrote that he fears for his life, safety, he fears that torture or death penalty could be applied against him," Kucherena said separately in televised remarks.

Receipt confirmed

"And under these circumstances, understanding his position and situation, the Federal Migration Service should of course grant his request."

The head of the Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, confirmed it had received the application. Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov referred all questions to the FMS.

Kremlin-friendly lawyer Kucherena participated in Snowden's meeting with rights activists and pro-Kremlin lawmakers at Sheremetyevo last week and said Snowden had contacted him for consultations after the encounter.

Kucherena said he was helping Snowden negotiate the complexities of Russian legislation and the difference between the status of refugee, political asylum and temporary asylum.

"He is actively consulting with me," Kucherena said. "After the meeting we've been in frequent touch."

Russian authorities generally consider an application for temporary asylum for up to three months, with preliminary consideration taking up to five days.

'Trapped' by US pressure

After the application is accepted, an applicant receives a temporary document allowing him to live and travel locally.

Temporary asylum lasts for one year and would in theory give Snowden enough time to find a way to leave Russia, possibly for Latin America. It then can be extended every year for another 12 months.

Snowden flew into Russia from Hong Kong on 23 June and has since been marooned in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo. He was checked in for an Aeroflot flight to Cuba on 24 June but never boarded the plane.

On Monday, Putin said Snowden would leave Russia "as soon as he can" and accused Washington of "trapping" the American in Moscow, saying no country wanted to take in Snowden due to US pressure.

Breaking silence for the first time since he arrived, Snowden, who is essentially stateless after Washington revoked his passport, held the closed-door meeting at the airport on Friday.

At the meeting, he said he would file for asylum in Russia before he could work out a way to travel legally to Latin America, asking the activists to petition Putin on his behalf.

Kremlin green light

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have indicated that they would be open to offering the 30-year-old a safe haven.

Putin said earlier this month Snowden could claim asylum in Russia only if he stopped his leaks and the activists who had met Snowden on Friday said he promised not to harm the United States.

Even though the Kremlin has repeatedly said it had nothing to do with Snowden, political observers have noted that his meeting with activists at the state-controlled airport would have been impossible without a green light from the Kremlin.

The head of Amnesty International in Russia, Sergei Nikitin, who took part in the airport meeting, said Snowden would likely receive asylum.

"The way everything was organised so quickly, the whole logistics make it obvious for us that there's an interest of the authorities," he told AFP. "So the decision will probably be positive."

Nikitin had said he believed plain-clothed representatives of Russian special services had taken part in Friday's meeting.

Washington has reacted sharply to the possibility that Moscow might offer Snowden a safe haven and accused it of providing him with a "propaganda platform".

Read more on:    edward snowden  |  vladimir putin  |  us  |  russia  |  privacy  |  espionage

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