Image: Snowden Applies for Asylum in Russia

Snowden Applies for Asylum in Russia

Monday, 01 Jul 2013 11:21 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Former NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia, a Russian immigration source close to the matter said on Monday.

The source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said a WikiLeaks activist who is traveling with Snowden handed his application to a Russian consulate in the transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday.

On Monday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said Snowden will have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wants to get asylum in Russia, which he claimed Snowden doesn't want to do.

"He must stop his work aimed at damaging our American partners, as odd as it may sound from me," Putin said, according to USA Today.

Putin, speaking at a news conference, insisted that Snowden isn't a Russian agent and that Russian security agencies have not contacted him.

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent Poll

Putin continued to refuse President Barack Obama's demands that Snowden, who leaked details about the NSA's surveillance efforts both in the United States and Europe, be returned back to the United States to face espionage charges.

"Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so," Putin said. Russia has traded foreign exchange employees for those detained, arrested, and sentenced in Russia, but doesn't extradite people back to their native countries to face charges there.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who is working with Russia on the Snowden matter, and Secretary of State John Kerry have sent a message to Russia, saying the country can't expect the same level of support on counterterrorism and other matters if it doesn't cooperate, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Kerry noted that the United States has extradited seven people wanted for crimes in Russia to Moscow.

But Putin still isn't officially welcoming Snowden into Russia, and the fugitive remains trapped in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport, where he been since last week, after the State Department revoked his passport and traveling privileges.

Putin said Snowden should pick where he wants to go, and then leave. But that's easier said than done, since other countries have been rejecting Snowden's pleas for asylum.

Ecuador backed away from allowing Snowden political asylum, and left him "under the care of the Russian authorities," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said.

Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, apparently scared the Latin American country away by suggesting it could lose trade with the United States if it accepts Snowden. Ecuador relies on the United States for nearly half of its exports, including oil, seafood, bananas, and flowers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Before his request for asylum in Russia became public, Snowden met with Russian diplomatic officials and gave them a list of 15 countries where he had applied for political asylum, a Russian Foreign Minister told The Los Angeles Times.

"It was a desperate measure on his part after Ecuador disavowed his political protection credentials," said the official, who spoke anonymously. "In the document Snowden reiterated once again that he is not a traitor and explained his actions only by a desire to open the world's eyes on the flagrant violations by U.S. special services, not only of American citizens but also citizens of the European Union, including their NATO allies."

The official declined to name the countries on the list, but Kirill Kabanov, a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, said he believed Russia is included.

"Russia has two workable options: Firstly is to provide Snowden with some refugee-status papers so that he could buy a ticket and leave for some other country, or secondly, to grant him political asylum," Kabanov said. "Snowden's actions were motivated by a desire to protect human rights and freedoms and now many rights activists in Russia are talking about him as a human rights advocate who deserves to be granted asylum, although this measure is fraught with some political inconveniences for Russia."

Monday, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro was to arrive in Russia for an already scheduled visit, reports USA Today, after he said over the weekend that Snowden was "almost sure" to get asylum in his country if he formally requests it.

Snowden's limbo at the Moscow airport was the end result of decisions made too quickly in his last 24 hours in Hong Kong, where he fled after disclosing the NSA secrets.

Part of his legal team there believed Hong Kong was the best place to protect Snowden's safety, reports The Wall Street Journal. But Snowden got a different message from WikiLeaks, the Journal reports. Through an intermediary, he asked WikiLeaks to help him seek asylum in Iceland, and WikiLeaks asked other governments about asylum possibilities.

Sunday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Snowden a hero, but denied his organization was behind the disclosures.

Assange said the WikiLeaks legal team has been in contact with Snowden, and called the United States' move to revoke his passport a "disgrace." Assange himself is under the protection of the Ecuadorian government, staying at that nation's embassy in London, where he has been granted protection from a Swedish extradition connected to an alleged sex crime.

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent Poll



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