Snowden applies for political asylum in Russia
Putin floats idea of whistleblower remaining in the country
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reportedly met Russian diplomats yesterday morning and handed them a list of 15 countries to which he would like to apply for political asylum. Photograph: Reuters/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras
Vladimir Putin has for the first time floated the idea of United States whistleblower Edward Snowden remaining in Russia, hours after the fugitive applied for political asylum in the country.
Mr Snowden applied for asylum at the consular office at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport at 10:30pm last Sunday evening through his WikiLeaks handler, Sarah Harrison, a consular official said.
“The UK citizen Sarah Harrison passed on a request by Edward Snowden to be granted political asylum,” said Kim Shevchenko, of the airport’s consular department. He said he then called the foreign ministry, who sent a courier an hour later to pick up the request.
He declined to say where Ms Harrison or Mr Snowden, who have not been seen since landing in Sheremetyevo last week, were staying. “She didn’t say and I didn’t ask,” he said.
‘Our American partners’
In a move likely to enrage the US, Mr Putin said yesterday: “If he wants to go somewhere and someone will take him, go ahead. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth.”
Mr Snowden has been in the airport since June 23rd, after flying in from Hong Kong, from where he leaked secret documents detailing US National Security Agency surveillance programmes.
Stripped of his US passport, he has been stuck in limbo since.
His attempts to get political asylum in Ecuador, whose London embassy is sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, appear to have dried up amid intense US lobbying and reported disagreements within the Ecuadorean government.
Snowden met Russian diplomats yesterday morning and handed them a list of 15 countries to which he would like to apply for political asylum, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unnamed source in the foreign ministry.
Mr Putin appeared to leave himself some latitude, noting Mr Snowden would be unlikely to meet his conditions for staying in Russia.
“Considering that he considers himself a human rights activist and a fighter for human rights, he probably doesn’t plan to stop this work, so he should choose a host country and head there,” Mr Putin said.
“When this will happen I, unfortunately, do not know.”
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of gas exporting countries, he reiterated that Russia would not extradite Mr Snowden to the US.
“Russia never gives anyone up and doesn’t plan to give anyone up. And no one has ever given us anyone.”
‘Snowden is not our agent’
For the second time Mr Putin, unprompted, insisted Mr Snowden was not working with Russia’s secret services. “Mr Snowden is not our agent, never was and isn’t today. Our special services have never worked with him and are not working with him.”
Russia maintains one of the world’s most developed intelligence mechanisms and is widely believed to engage in snooping on its own citizens.
Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president, is in Moscow for the two-day gas conference and it was believed he and Mr Putin would discuss Mr Snowden’s fate.
Mr Putin’s foreign policy advisor, Yury Ushakov, said the two had not discussed Mr Snowden yet.
A campaign calling for Mr Snowden to stay in Russia has gathered momentum since he first arrived in Moscow. Yesterday morning, several MPs and influential Russians floated the idea during a meeting of the Public Chamber, a body that advises the Kremlin.
“It’s not right that Snowden is sitting in this terminal like in a prison,” said Sergei Markov, a former MP with close ties to the Kremlin.
“Unlike prison, he can’t even go out and breathe fresh air. On humanitarian grounds, I think he should be presented with a way to enter Russian territory.”
– (Guardian service)