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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs