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Snowden Drops Asylum Bid for Russia: Official

  • VOA News

An employee distributes newspapers, with a photograph (L) of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden seen on a page, at an underground walkway in central Moscow, July 2, 2013.

An employee distributes newspapers, with a photograph (L) of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden seen on a page, at an underground walkway in central Moscow, July 2, 2013.

A Russian official says fugitive American spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has dropped his bid for asylum in Russia, even as reports emerged that he is seeking political refuge in 19 other countries.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin says Snowden changed his mind after the Russian president said Monday he could only stay in the country if he stopped leaking sensitive U.S. intelligence.

The spokesman also confirmed Snowden remains in the transit zone of a Moscow airport, where he fled eight days ago from Hong Kong and has continued to reveal top-secret U.S. surveillance operations.

Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy group that has supported Snowden, says it has submitted asylum requests to 19 more countries on his behalf, including China, India, Brazil and several European nations. It said this is in addition to earlier asylum requests to Ecuador and Iceland.

But many of the countries have already said they will not consider an asylum request from Snowden unless he applies on their soil. India said Tuesday it sees "no reason" to accept the request.

The 30-year-old, who faces espionage charges in the U.S., broke his weeklong silence Monday, accusing the Obama administration of pressuring countries where he is seeking protection.

In a statement posted on Wikileaks, Snowden accused the White House of "using citizenship as a weapon," saying the United States has "unilaterally revoked" his passport in a move that he says left him a "stateless person." The U.S. State Department says revoking a passport and allowing only travel home to the United States on a temporary document is standard procedure when a U.S. citizen faces serious criminal charges.

While Putin said Russian security agencies had not contacted Snowden, he said Moscow has no plans to turn him over to the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he briefly discussed Snowden during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at security summit in Brunei. Kerry said he raised U.S. concerns, but defined the discussion as "not substantive."

Ecuador is also believed to be considering Snowden's asylum request. But Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Sunday that it could do nothing about the request until Snowden reached its territory. He also said the White House has pressured him to reject any such claim.

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