July 24, 2013

Lawyer: Snowden to stay in Moscow airport for now

By Laura Mills and Nataliya Vasilyeva / The Associated Press

MOSCOW — A lawyer advising National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden says his asylum status has not been resolved and that he is going to stay at the Moscow airport for now.

Anatoly Kucherena, who was visiting the American at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Wednesday, said that migration officials are still looking at the asylum request and that the process had been drawn out.

Kucherena said that Snowden is staying in the transit zone "for now" and "intends to stay in Russia, study Russian culture."

The lawyer did not immediately comment on a Russian news report that said Snowden had received a document earlier Wednesday allowing him to enter Russia from the airport.

The American applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week after his attempts to leave the airport and fly out of Russia were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage.

Snowden, who revealed details of the NSA's wide-ranging spying activities targeting data and phone communication, is believed to have been staying at the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since June 23, when he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden can be granted asylum in Russia only if he stops leaking NSA secrets.

A spokeswoman for Russia's Federal Migration Service told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it had no information about the status of Snowden's application for asylum.

Granting Snowden asylum would add new tensions to U.S.-Russian relations already strained by Washington's criticism of Russia's pressure on opposition groups, Moscow's suspicion of U.S. missile-defense plans in Europe, and Russia's resistance to proposed sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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