A Russian lawyer says that former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia.
Attorney Anatoly Kucherena said Snowden, 30, filed the asylum request Tuesday with Russia's Federal Migration Service, even though he still wants to eventually travel to Latin America. Snowden, now encamped for a fourth week in the transit zone of a Moscow airport, is trying to avoid standing trial on U.S. espionage charges after leaking details of clandestine American surveillance programs.
Three leftist Latin America countries -- Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua -- have offered him asylum. But Snowden has been blocked from leaving Moscow after the U.S. revoked his passport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he does not know how the fugitive's case will play out. He said the U.S. "frightened other countries" into not accepting him. The U.S. is seeking Snowden's extradition to face the espionage charges.
Putin said Snowden's case is "in limbo right now," but that he expects he will leave for another country "as soon as he has an opportunity to move elsewhere."
"How should I know? It's his life and his fate. He arrived in our territory without invitation. We haven't invited him," noted Putin. "He wasn't actually flying towards us, he was travelling to other countries as a transit passenger. But as soon as he was airborne and this became known, our American partners had basically blocked his further movement. They frightened other countries. Nobody wants to receive him. So they have blocked him in our territory themselves.
"Initially we told him - you can stay if you want, but you must stop your political activities," the Russian president continued. "We have certain relations with the United States and we do not want your activities to damage our relations with the U.S. He said no. You are laughing, but I am being serious. He said he wanted to continue his activities, he wanted to fight for human rights and he thought that the U.S. violated certain norms of international law and interfered in private lives, and his goal was to fight that. We said: do so, but without us. We have other things to fight. It is in limbo right now, but as soon as he has an opportunity to move elsewhere he will certainly do so. He knows the terms of granting political asylum and, judging from his latest statements, he is changing his position, but the situation is not completely clear yet."