Edward Snowden is living under guard at a secret location in Russia, but is able to travel around the country freely without being recognised, according to the former NSA contractor’s Russian lawyer.
“We believe the danger remains quite high and, as I see it, it is impossible at the moment to reveal where he’s living or to talk openly about it,” said Anatoly Kucherena in an interview with the Kremlin-funded television station Russia Today, excerpts of which were released on Tuesday.
Kucherena said Snowden has security protection, but was evasive on whether this was provided by the Russian state, noting that there were many private security firms in Russia.
Snowden is wanted by the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes to the Guardian. He has not been seen in public since he landed in Moscow. He spent several weeks in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, before he was granted asylum by Russia and left the airport on 1 August.
A meeting Snowden held with human rights activists during his time at the airport and a grainy photograph of him getting into a car when leaving Sheremetyevo are the only traces left by the fugitive whistleblower. Western diplomats and Russian government sources say they have no idea where he is staying.
President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, this month referred to Snowden as “a strange guy” and said life in Russia would not be easy for him.
According to Kucherena, despite the secrecy Snowden has been moving unimpeded around Russia. “He walks around. He can travel. He does travel, because he is interested in our history,” said the lawyer, adding that nobody had yet recognised Snowden on his travels.
Kucherena admitted it was unlikely the US government would attempt an audacious operation on Russian soil to capture Snowden, but said he had to remain vigilant.