U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden appeared to be about to leave his temporary home at a Moscow airport Wednesday, but his lawyer said there was a snag in the American's bid for asylum in Russia, so he is staying put at the airport .
Numerous news agencies in Russia reported that documents had been delivered authorizing the former U.S. intelligence contractor to leave the international airport's transit zone and enter Russia formally. Snowden has been encamped at the Sheremetyevo Airport for the past month while trying to arrange safe passage to any country where he could avoid pending U.S. espionage charges.
After a meeting with Snowden Wednesday, his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said the U.S. fugitive does not yet have appropriate documents from Russian authorities, so he will continue to live at the airport.
Snowden has made public top-secret documents about wide-ranging surveillance programs throughout the world conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused a request from U.S. President Barack Obama to expel Snowden so he can stand trial in the United States. With the possible release of Snowden from the airport, the U.S. said it is seeking clarification from Russia on his status.
Three leftist governments in Latin America - Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua - have offered Snowden asylum, but after the United States revoked his passport, Snowden has not been able to leave the Moscow airport.
The 30-year-old computer expert says he wants to eventually head to Latin America, but last week, in a handwritten note, he asked Russia to grant him temporary asylum.
Mr. Putin has said that Snowden can only stay in Russia if he refrains from leaking more documents damaging to the U.S.
Snowden leaked details of NSA programs that collect vast information on telephone calls made in the U.S., although not the content of the calls, as well as Internet usage of suspected terrorists.
The NSA says it needs to collect the data to prevent another attack on the U.S. like the 2001 al-Qaida assault that killed nearly 3,000 people. News of the extent of the surveillance has sparked a new debate in Congress about limiting government agencies' power to collect such large amounts of data.