News / USA

Snowden to Seek Temporary Asylum in Russia

Edward Snowden at the Moscow airport July 12, 2013, with Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks on the left side of the photo.
Edward Snowden at the Moscow airport July 12, 2013, with Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks on the left side of the photo.
Reuters
Ex-intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, encamped at a Russian airport evading the reach of U.S. authorities, said on Friday he had sacrificed a comfortable life in disclosing U.S. spying secrets but had no regrets.
 
“A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise,” he said in first public remarks on what he sees as the personal cost of incurring Washington's anger in disclosing details of U.S. electronic surveillance programs.
 
“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 the Moscow airport where he has lived since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
 
Snowden, 30, in remarks relayed by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, said he would seek temporary asylum in Russia. Until now he has been living in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport without having gone through passport control.
 
Russian authorities said he should not harm the interests of the United States 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 of the meeting said Snowden would seek to travel on to Latin America. It was unclear when that might happen, or how.
 
“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, told Reuters.
 
“But in order to be guaranteed safety here in Russia, the only way for him to go was to file a formal asylum plea.”
 
Russian officials have shown increasing impatience over Snowden's stay, but it had also become clear that he has no easy route to a safe haven from Moscow.
 
Edward Snowden's asylum options.Edward Snowden's asylum options.
x
Edward Snowden's asylum options.
Edward Snowden's asylum options.
Snowden's predicament has thrust him into the hands of Russia as Washington and Moscow are seeking to improve relations that soured over issues including Syria and human rights since Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012.
 
Putin has frequently accused the United States of double standards on human rights and has championed its critics, but he has invited President Barack Obama to Moscow for a summit in early September and does not want to ruin the chances for that.
 
Putin's spokesman repeated earlier conditions that Snowden should stop harming the interests of the United States if he wants asylum.
 
“As far as we know, he considers himself a defender of human rights and a campaigner for democratic ideals,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
 
Human rights representatives (L-R) Amnesty international Russia Director Sergei Nikitkin, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, lawyer Henri Reznik, Member of the Public Chamber of Russia Olga Kostina and Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin speaks to journalists after a meeting with former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden at Sheremetyevo airport, July 12, 2013.Human rights representatives (L-R) Amnesty international Russia Director Sergei Nikitkin, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, lawyer Henri Reznik, Member of the Public Chamber of Russia Olga Kostina and Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin speaks to journalists after a meeting with former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden at Sheremetyevo airport, July 12, 2013.
x
Human rights representatives (L-R) Amnesty international Russia Director Sergei Nikitkin, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, lawyer Henri Reznik, Member of the Public Chamber of Russia Olga Kostina and Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin speaks to journalists after a meeting with former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden at Sheremetyevo airport, July 12, 2013.
Human rights representatives (L-R) Amnesty international Russia Director Sergei Nikitkin, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, lawyer Henri Reznik, Member of the Public Chamber of Russia Olga Kostina and Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin speaks to journalists after a meeting with former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden at Sheremetyevo airport, July 12, 2013.
Peskov said Snowden should “fully refrain from actions inflicting damage on our American partners and on Russian-American relations,” the Interfax news agency reported.
 
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.
 
Peskov said he was unaware of a formal request for political asylum from Snowden, but he said would submit one on Friday. Putin has made clear Russia would not extradite Snowden to the United States.
 
Death penalty
 
After Snowden's meeting, pro-Kremlin politicians lined up to cast the American as a rights activist who deserves protection because he could be charged in the United States with espionage, a crime that carries the death penalty.
 
“There is a really great risk that Edward Snowden is facing this very punishment,” Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told state TV. “We simply can't allow this.”
 
In the remarks released by Wikileaks, he cast himself in similar terms.
 
“I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell U.S. secrets,” he said, according to the statement.
 
“That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.”
 
Lokshina, of Human Rights Watch, said U.S. officials asked her to tell Snowden the United States does not see it that way.
 
“I was contacted on my phone on my way to the airport on behalf of the ambassador and they asked me to relay to Snowden the official position of the U.S. authorities - that he is not a whistleblower, but had broken the law and should be held accountable,” she said. She said she passed on the message.
 
A grainy picture of Snowden taken by one participant, with Wikileaks legal assistant Sarah Harrison to his right, soon surfaced on social media and news sites. He wore a gray shirt and looked in good health.
 
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered Snowden asylum. Washington, which seeks to arrest Snowden on charges of espionage in divulging details of secret U.S. surveillance programs, has revoked Snowden's passport and pressed nations not to take him in or help him travel.
 
After the activists were led through a gray door marked “staff only”, Lokshina said they were put on a bus, driven around until they reached a different part of Sheremetyevo and taken to a room where Snowden was waiting.
 
The meeting was constantly interrupted by announcements of departures and arrivals, she said, prompting Snowden to quip: “I've gotten used to those.”

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid