30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Russia says yet to receive Snowden asylum bid
Edward Snowden, the fugitive intelligence leaker wanted by the United States, has still not applied for temporary asylum in Russia despite vowing to do so last week, officials said on Monday.
Snowden made his first public statement in nearly three weeks last Friday as he met with a group of Russian rights activists and pro-Kremlin figures in the Moscow airport where he had been marooned since June 23 after flying in from Hong Kong.
However, deepening the mystery over his three-week stay in the Moscow transit lounge, Snowden has not yet filed the asylum application with the Russian authorities that he told his visitors that he would be making on Friday evening.
The head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS), Konstantin Romodanovsky, told Russian news agencies on Monday that no such application had come in yet.
“There have been no applications from Edward Snowden as of today,” he told Interfax.
The speaker of the Russian State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin, said last week that Snowden could apply for either temporary asylum or political asylum, indicating that Moscow may look positively on an application now his US passport has been revoked.
Under Russian law, to be granted temporary asylum the person must file his application to the migration services and undergo a medical check. Requests for political asylum are reviewed by the Kremlin and are granted by the president.
A source in Sheremetyevo airport said that Snowden still has a room reserved in the capsule hotel in the transit zone, but that he also has access to a “special rest room for staff on duty,” Interfax reported.
“Snowden’s safety is being guarded both in the hotel and in this room,” the source said, without elaborating whether such precautions were handled by a security firm or a government agency.
‘A scenario was written for the meeting’
Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Snowden could claim asylum in Russia only if he stopped harming US interests.
The condition initially prompted the fugitive to withdraw his asylum application, but Snowden on Friday indicated he did still want refuge in the country due to his inability to travel on.
It remained unclear to what extent Friday’s dramatic meeting had been Snowden’s own initiative or if the Russian security services had played a role.
The Russian press on Monday noted that the meeting did not include Russia’s best known rights campaigners or organisations who deal with refugees, like activist Svetlana Gannunshkina who has championed the rights of refugees for decades.
But among those invited were figures like majority United Russia party lawmaker and prominent political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov who would likely not have been known to Snowden before his arrival in Russia.
The senior researcher of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, Tanya Lokshina, told the Vedomosti daily she did not believe that Snowden had drawn up the list of those invited himself.
The head of the Amnesty International office in Moscow, Sergei Nikitin, had said after taking part in the meeting that several “young people” in the room who were not part of the group were taking pictures and videos with their phones.
The videos were later leaked to tabloid website Lifenews.ru which is known for close contacts with the security services.
Independent security services analyst Andrei Soldatov said it remained unclear “whether Snowden is free in his actions and is not controlled by the local authorities and security services”.
“Although international rights groups played the leading role in this meeting with Snowden, they could not change the scenario that was written for this meeting,” he wrote on his website Agentura.ru.
A journalist who published a series of stories based on Snowden’s leaks in the Guardian newspaper, Glenn Greenwald, said over the weekend that the former NSA contractor has enough information to damage the US government “than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States” but chose not to publish it.
Washington has reacted sharply to the possibility that Moscow might offer Snowden a safe harbour, with the White House telling Russia not to offer him a “propaganda platform”.