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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid