Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is reported to have requested asylum in Russia -- and the Kremlin is indicating it might let him stay in the country if he stops leaking details about clandestine American surveillance programs.
The 30-year Snowden met Friday with human rights activists and Russian lawyers at a Moscow airport. Several of them are quoted in news reports as saying he wants to stay in Russia because he is unable to fly anywhere else after the U.S. revoked his passport. Three Latin American countries -- Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua -- had offered him asylum.
Snowden -- encamped in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport for nearly three weeks -- had previously expressed interest in seeking asylum in Russia. But he withdrew the bid after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the request would only be considered if Snowden agreed to stop leaking more details about the U.S. surveillance programs being conducted by the National Security Agency.
As details of his airport meeting became public, the Kremlin reiterated that Snowden could stay in Russia if he stopped the disclosures.
Snowden called the meeting at the airport to talk about what he says is "threatening behavior" by the United States to keep him from gaining asylum. Several human rights activists attended, including representatives of the Russian offices of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, attorneys and a Russian lawmaker.
Snowden has not been seen publicly since he arrived at Sheremetyevo June 23 after a flight from Hong Kong.
The U.S. wants Snowden extradited to stand trial on the espionage charges. Russia has refused to release him to U.S. custody, with Mr. Putin urging him to depart for another country.
Earlier this week, Snowden explained his disclosure of clandestine American surveillance programs in a newly released segment of a video recorded last month. Britain's Guardian newspaper released the video Tuesday of a June 6 interview conducted in Hong Kong.
Snowden said in the video that he knew the United States would accuse him of espionage in alerting the country's enemies of the surveillance. But he said the United States is also at fault for monitoring the phone records of its citizens and keeping track of Internet connections with possible terrorists.