July 16th , 2013 9:12 am Leave a comment

Snowden submits request for asylum in Russia

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MOSCOW (AP) — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday submitted a request for temporary asylum in Russia, his lawyer said.

Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who is a member of the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body, said that Snowden submitted the asylum request to Russia’s Federal Migration Service. The service had no immediate comment.

Kucherena told The Associated Press that he met Snowden in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and Snowden made the request after the meeting.

He said Russian law contains no specific time frame for considering an asylum request.

Snowden has been stuck in Sheremetyevo’s transit zone since he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23. He said Friday at a meeting with Russian rights activists and public figures, which Kucherena attended, that he would seek at least temporary refuge in Russia until he could fly to one of the Latin American nations that have offered him asylum.

It wasn’t immediately clear why it took Snowden so long to formally submit the request.

Snowden’s stay in Russia has strained already chilly relations between Moscow and Washington. Granting him asylum would further aggravate tensions with Washington less than two months before Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama are to meet in Moscow and again at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Putin on Monday described Snowden’s arrival as an unwelcome present foisted on Russia by the United States. He said that Snowden flew to Moscow intending only to transit to another country, but that the U.S. intimidated other countries into refusing to accept him, effectively blocking the fugitive from flying further.

Snowden previously had sought Russian asylum, which Putin said would be granted only if he agreed not to leak more information. Snowden then withdrew the bid, the Kremlin said.

During Friday’s meeting in Sheremetyevo’s transit zone, Snowden argued that he hadn’t hurt U.S. interests in the past and has no intention of doing that.

Putin did not say Monday if that would be sufficient grounds for asylum, adding that Snowden apparently did not want to stay in Russia permanently.

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered Snowden asylum, but getting there from Moscow without passing through U.S. airspace or that of Washington’s allies would be difficult. The U.S. has annulled his passport.

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