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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More