Snowden Renews Request To Russia For Asylum
Edward Snowden must be having a hard time finding a safe way to get out of Russia without risking interception by the U.S. or nations friendly to the U.S., because he is renewing his request for asylum in Russia:
MOSCOW — Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American intelligence contractor, met with representatives of international human rights organizations at his temporary Moscow airport refuge on Friday afternoon and appealed for their help in seeking asylum status in Russia until he can safely travel to Latin America.
Breaking his silence and seclusion after having spent nearly three weeks in geopolitical limbo within the international transit zone at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, Mr. Snowden told the representatives that “the only way for him to have safety guarantees for temporary stay in Russia is apparently to get an asylum in Russia,” Tanya Lokshina, a Human Rights Watch representative who attended the meeting, said in an e-mail. “So he is asking for one.”
Mr. Snowden had expressed interest in applying for asylum in Russia after his first week at the airport but quickly reconsidered after hearing the Kremlin’s conditions, Russian officials have said. President Vladimir V. Putin, who has not appeared eager to grant Mr. Snowden asylum, has said that Mr. Snowden could stay in Russia only if he agreed to “cease his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners.”
Vyacheslav A. Nikonov, a pro-Kremlin political scientist who attended the meeting, said that Mr. Snowden now seemed comfortable agreeing to that condition. But it remained unclear whether that would mean Mr. Snowden would stop releasing classified American intelligence data. He has said previously that he does not consider such disclosures to be harmful to American interests.
“He said, ‘Yes, he is aware of the conditions, and it is very easy for him to answer ‘yes,'” Mr. Nikonov said. “He agrees with the conditions. First, because all he did to hurt the interests of the United States is in the past, and what the journalists are doing now is not his fault. And second, he has no intention of hurting the United States more, since he is a loyal citizen.”
Genri M. Reznik, a prominent Russian defense lawyer who also had been invited to the meeting, said that there was no evidence of Russian security personnel there. He noted, however, that the government had clearly approved the event, since airport officials collected the attendees’ passports and escorted them to the sector of the airport that is considered an international border zone.
“That’s what we would call ‘political will’ here,” he said. He added that Mr. Snowden appeared healthy and cheerful.
“He spoke like a free man! He was smiling,” Mr. Reznik said.
Sergei Nikitin, an invited representative from Amnesty International, also said Mr. Snowden appeared well, describing his appearance as “entirely cheerful.”
“I asked him if he had enough time to learn some Russian, and he smiled at my joke,” Mr. Nikitin said. “He had a pleasant face.”
Moments after Mr. Snowden made clear that he was seeking asylum in Russia, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told the Interfax news agency that Mr. Putin’s condition is still in force, and that Mr. Snowden could hypothetically remain if he agreed to it.
After the meeting, Anatoly Kucherena, a Kremlin-connected lawyer who also was on the list of invitees, told Russian television that he believed the decision on whether to grant Mr. Snowden asylum could be made within two or three weeks. He said the request must first be addressed to the Federal Migration Service, which will then send its recommendation to a presidential commission that governs citizenship.
Russian officials have suggested more than once that they would like Mr. Snowden to leave Russia, where he fled on June 23 from Hong Kong, one step ahead of an American extradition request to prosecute him on charges he violated espionage laws by revealing classified American surveillance information.
So it looks like Snowden will be spending at least a couple more weeks in the transit area of the Moscow Airport. That has to be some kind of record.