Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday after three weeks holed up at a Moscow airport trying to avoid prosecution in the United States on espionage charges.
Snowden is seeking refuge in Latin America after leaking details of US government surveillance programmes, but has not risked taking any flight that might be intercepted by the United States since flying in from Hong Kong on June 23.
“He reached the conclusion that he needs to write an application for temporary asylum (in Russia), and this procedure has just been done,” Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who met Snowden on Friday along with human rights activists, told Reuters.
“For now he is not going to go anywhere. For now he plans to stay in Russia,” he said, adding that if Snowden were granted temporary asylum, he should have the same rights as other citizens and be free to work and travel in Russia.
The asylum application could end his time in limbo but risks deepening tension between the United States and Russia, which has refused to expel him to his homeland for prosecution.
The head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) confirmed the agency had received Snowden’s application.
However, President Vladimir Putin will not be the person deciding whether to grant fugitive American Edward Snowden temporary asylum in Russia, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.