Fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's hopes of leaving Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for the first time in a month on Wednesday were dashed when he failed to secure permission from Russia to leave.
An airport source said Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for revealing details of government intelligence programs, was handed documents by his lawyer which were expected to include a pass to leave the transit area.
But Snowden did not go through passport control and lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who is assisting him with his request for temporary asylum in Russia until he can reach a state that will shelter him, said the American did not have the pass he needed.
It was not clear whether there had been a last-minute political intervention or hitch, or the pass had never been in his possession.
Seeking a solution
But Kucherena said he hoped Snowden's status would be resolved soon.
“I must say he is of course anxious about it and I hope that this situation will be resolved in the nearest future,” Kucherena said at Sheremetyevo airport.
“This is the first time Russia is facing such a situation, and this issue of course requires time for the immigration workers.”
In Washington, the White House said it was seeking clarification of Snowden's status, the State Department made clear that allowing him to leave the airport would be "deeply disappointing" and Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the situation.
"The secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He reiterated our belief ... that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will have a fair trial."
Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have said they could offer sanctuary to Snowden, who arrived on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he had fled to escape capture and trial in the United States on espionage charges.
But none of the three Latin American countries can be reached by a direct commercial flight so Snowden has requested temporary asylum in Russia until he believes he can safely reach one of them.
The United States wants him extradited to face prosecution and has revoked his passport.
But Russia has refused to send him home and risks damage to relations with the United States if it grants him temporary asylum - a process that could take three months.