Snowden Receives Permission To Leave Moscow Airport [Update: Or, Maybe Not]
After more than a month in the Moscow Airport’s transit area, Edward Snowden is now apparently free to leave:
MOSCOW — The National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been given a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia, Russia’s state news agency said Wednesday.
Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week after his attempts to leave the airport and fly out of Russia were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage.
Snowden, who revealed details of NSA’s wide-ranging spying activities targeting data and phone communication, is believed to have been staying at the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since June 23, when he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong.
RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed security official on Wednesday as saying that Snowden has been issued documents, allowing him to formally enter Russia.
President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden can be granted asylum in Russia only if he stops leaking secrets.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Migration Service told the Associated Press they had no information about the status of Snowden’s application for asylum.
Where Snowden goes from here is an open question. He could stay in Moscow, but that’s likely to be enough of a complication for U.S.-Russian relations that Putin would prefer that he leave. As noted before, Snowden has pending asylum offers from Venezuela and Bolivia, as well as possible offers from Nicaragua and Ecuador, so one suspects he’ll be finding a way to one of those countries in the near future.
Update: Snowden’s lawyer is saying that he hasn’t received any permission to leave yet:
MOSCOW — After a month holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor sought by the United States on espionage charges, received a change of clothes and a copy of “Crime and Punishment” during a meeting with his lawyer on Wednesday, but still no clearance to enter Russia.
Mr. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, and Russian news agencies had reported earlier on Wednesday that the Russian Federal Migration Service had issued a certificate confirming his application and permitting him to pass through Russian border control. A huge throng of reporters and camera crews gathered at the airport terminal in anticipation of Mr. Snowden’s departure.
But about 6 p.m., Antatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer assisting Mr. Snowden with his asylum request, emerged from the transit zone and said that the certificate had not been received.
He did not cite any specific reason for the delay but said officials had informed him that Mr. Snowden’s situation “was not a standard process” and that the paperwork needed to allow him to depart the airport required more time.
Mr. Kucherena said he had met with Mr. Snowden and described him as being in good spirits, with plans to learn Russian. He said he had brought him the copy of “Crime and Punishment.”
The Federal Migration Service declined to comment on the status of Mr. Snowden’s asylum request. He has been staying at the airport’s international transit zone since June 23, having flown here from Hong Kong one step ahead of an extradition request from the United States.
While the bureaucratic process has unfolded slowly, Russian officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin, have made clear that they have no intention of extraditing him to the United States — a position that has infuriated the Obama administration.
Mr. Putin has insisted that Mr. Snowden’s presence in Russia should not harm relations between the two countries, even as the White House has signaled that President Obama, amid mounting frustration, may cancel a planned summit meeting in Moscow in September.
Russian officials this week issued public statements noting that the United States has routinely rejected extradition requests from the Russian government, apparently to send a message that the Americans have no right to expect Mr. Snowden’s repatriation.
Mr. Kucherena, the lawyer, speaking to a crowd of reporters, said he had been trying to get a determination from the migration service. “Concerning today’s situation, I spent lots of time working on the question today, and currently the question is not resolved,” he said, adding, “He is located here, and he is living here.”
“The situation is not standard for Russia,” he said. “There is lots of bureaucracy to get through, the documents are still being looked over.”
So, it appears that Snowden will continue living out the life of Victor Navorski for the time being