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Snowden Granted Temporary Asylum, Leaves Moscow Airport

  • RFE/RL

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Fugitive former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden has left the Moscow airport, where he had been holed up for over a month, after he was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters that Snowden was granted asylum for one year and left the airport after he was given the papers.

Interviewed by state Russia-24 television, Kucherena held up a scanned copy of the certificate granting Snowden temporary asylum.

Kucherena said Snowden left the airport for an undisclosed secure location.

"[Snowden] has left [the airport] and moved to a safe location. I hope you will receive this information with understanding," he said. "He asked me to thank all of you and he very much hopes for your understanding. Safety is a very serious issue for him."

In a statement released by the antisecrecy WikiLeaks website, Snowden thanked Russia for granting him asylum and accused the U.S. government of showing "no respect" for international law.

Washington wants to try Snowden on espionage charges for revealing large-scale U.S. Internet and phone surveillance programs.

In its first reaction to Russia's decision, the White House said it was extremely disappointed and that Washington is reevaluating whether a planned fall summit with President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin should still take place.

"We are certainly evaluating the utility of a summit in Moscow -- a bilateral summit -- and are also in conversation with Russian officials," spokesman Jay Carney said.

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena

​Snowden had been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since he arrived there on June 23 on a flight from Hong Kong.

He applied for temporary asylum after U.S. authorities revoked his passport.

The United States has demanded that Russia send him back, but Putin refused.

Putin has said that he is determined not to allow the dispute over Snowden to harm Moscow's ties with Washington, however.

His foreign policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, on August 1 said Snowden's case was "too insignificant" to damage U.S.-Russia ties.

Putin had said Snowden had to stop revealing U.S. secrets if he wanted to stay in Russia.

Kucherena said Snowden accepted the condition.

Amnesty International Russia Director Sergei Nikitin welcomed Moscow's move to grant Snowden asylum, saying it was one of those "very rare" occasions when the rights watchdog was in agreement with Russia's authorities.

"I think in this concrete situation, as we hear accusations against Snowden from very high-profile people in the United States, as he has been already labeled a traitor, I think that in this situation he is obviously safer, at this stage, in the Russian Federation, as paradoxical as it sounds," Nikitin said.

Meanwhile, the founder of Russia's most popular social network, VKontakte, publicly offered a job to Snowden.

Pavel Durov, the 28-year-old co-founder of VKontakte, posted a message on his personal page on the site saying, "We invite Edward to [St.] Petersburg and will be happy if he decides to join the dream team of VKontakte programmers."

Snowden was granted asylum status in Russia days after U.S. soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage on July 30 for leaking U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and RIA Novosti