MOSCOW — As former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden settled into exile somewhere in Russia, the United States ambassador here met Friday with a high-ranking Kremlin aide to discuss “the new status” of the fugitive American leaker.
Ambassador Michael McFaul’s meeting with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov came as the Kremlin sought to downplay Moscow's granting of one-year asylum status to the American, who is wanted in the U.S. for leaking classified documents detailing massive NSA Internet and telephone data surveillance programs.
President Vladimir Putin visited an annual youth camp and fielded questions - on every topic, but Snowden.
While Kremlin officials downplayed the Snowden affair, analysts speculated that the U.S. might cancel a meeting Russia's defense and foreign ministers are set to have next week with their American counterparts. The White House did not say whether this meeting - or President Obama’s summit here with President Putin next month - would be canceled.
In Moscow, Snowden’s lawyer released a photo of the smiling American leaving a Moscow airport Thursday, ending nearly six weeks of confinement in the transit zone.
The lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Interfax news agency on Friday that Snowden had "reached his location, feels fine, and is completely safe.”
Kucherena would not say if Snowden is in Moscow or somewhere else in Russia - geographically the largest nation in the world.
If Snowden decides to stay in Russia, he could quickly have a job and a girlfriend.
Pavel Durov, the founder of V Kontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook, publicly offered him a job as a computer security specialist.
Dozens of Russian women have mailed fan letters to Snowden through his lawyer. And one local celebrity, Anna Chapman, has proposed marriage.
Three years ago, the FBI detained Chapman in New York for spying for Russia. She was deported home to Moscow. Here she has had a television show and has posed semi-naked for a men’s magazine.