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Fugitive US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden plans to seek asylum in Russia until he is able to travel to a Latin American country, he told a group of activists and officials yesterday.
Encamped at a Russian airport evading the reach of United States authorities, Snowden said he had sacrificed a comfortable life in disclosing US spying secrets but had no regrets.
"A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise," he said in his first public remarks on what he sees as the personal cost of incurring Washington's anger by disclosing details of its electronic surveillance.
"I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone's communications at any time. That is the power to change people's fates," he told human rights activists at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. He has been living in its transit area since arriving on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he made his initial revelations.
Snowden, 30, in remarks relayed by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, said he would seek temporary asylum in Russia.
Video: Edward Snowden talks to human rights activists at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport
Russian authorities said he should not harm the interests of the US if he wants refuge in Russia - a condition set by President Vladimir Putin.
"Snowden is serious about obtaining political asylum in the Russian Federation," said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker who attended the meeting with Snowden, who had not been seen in public since arriving from Hong Kong.
Participants in the meeting said Snowden would seek to travel on to Latin America.
Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have said they would be willing to grant asylum to Snowden.
"He wants to move further on, he wants to move to Latin America - he said it quite clearly," Tanya Lokshina, deputy head of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, said.
"But in order to be guaranteed safety here in Russia, the only way for him to go was to file a formal asylum plea."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, repeated earlier conditions that Snowden should stop harming the interests of the United States with more leaks if he wanted asylum.
Nikonov said that this message had got through.
"I asked him if he was ready to give up his political activity against the United States. He said, 'Definitely, yes, all this activity was in the past'," the lawmaker said.