MOSCOW — Fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in at least 20 countries, but he has dropped his bid for permanent refuge in Russia.
WikiLeaks’ legal adviser Sarah Harrison submitted the asylum requests for Edward Snowden by delivering the documents to an official at the Russian Consulate at Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport, where Snowden has been holed up for more than a week, in a sort of diplomatic purgatory.
Snowden has been on the run since last month, after releasing secret NSA documents that detailed U.S. surveillance of domestic and international telephone and Internet use.
Among the countries where Snowden is seeking asylum are Poland, Germany, Iceland, Austria and Ecuador. But European leaders say that Snowden most likely would have to be on a country’s soil in order to be granted asylum.
Snowden also applied for asylum in India.
Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, said, "I can confirm that earlier today our embassy in Moscow did receive a communication from Edward Snowden. That communication did contain a request for asylum. We have carefully examined the request. Following that careful examination, we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to that request."
In a statement - his first public comment since coming to Russia - Snowden said President Barack Obama is trying to persuade countries not to give him asylum.
Snowden withdrew his asylum request to Russia when he learned President Vladimir Putin would consider it only if he stopped leaking U.S. secrets. But Mr. Putin says Russia will not send Snowden back to America to face charges of espionage.
Mr. Putin met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Tuesday in Moscow. News reports say they discussed Snowden but Mr. Maduro later told reporters his country has not received an asylum application from the American.
The Venezuelan leader said Snowden deserves protection under international and humanitarian law.
After arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23, Snowden was reported to have initially booked flights to Havana, Cuba, and then on to Caracas, Venezuela, before becoming trapped in legal limbo.
WikiLeaks said asylum requests have also been made to Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Poland joined several staunch U.S. allies in Europe who are demanding an explanation from Washington about allegations, based on Snowden leaks, that U.S. agencies spied on European Union communications.