WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has reportedly asked for asylum in Russia.
Russia’s Interfax news agency cited Kim Shevchenko, the duty officer at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s consular office in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, as saying that Snowden’s representative, Sarah Harrison, handed over his request Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Snowden met with Russian diplomatic officials Monday and gave them a list of 15 countries to seek political asylum.
“It was a desperate measure on his part after Ecuador disavowed his political protection credential,” the official told the Times.
During a press conference in Tanzania, President Obama said officials are involved in “high-level discussions” with Russia to extradite Snowden back to the United States.
“We have gone through regular law enforcement channels in enforcing the extradition requests that we’ve made in respect to Mr. Snowden,” Obama said in video obtained by Politico.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned earlier Monday that Snowden must stop revealing American secrets if he wants to stay in the country.
Putin said that Snowden “must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners,” according to Reuters, adding that Snowden “is not a Russian agent.”
Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after arriving from Hong Kong last week.
Last week, Ecuadorean officials said Russian authorities have stymied the country’s efforts to approve a political asylum application from the former National Security Agency systems analyst, according to government officials with direct knowledge of the case.
In conceding his son’s guilt, Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, told NBC’s “Today” show that his lawyer had informed Attorney General Eric Holder that he believes his son would voluntarily return to the United States if the Justice Department promises not to hold him before trial and not subject him to a gag order.
“If folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact, he has betrayed his government. But I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States,” Lonnie Snowden said.
The elder Snowden hasn’t spoken to his son since April, but he said he believes he’s being manipulated by people at WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy group has been trying to help Edward Snowden gain asylum.
“I don’t want to put him in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him,” Lonnie Snowden told NBC. “I think WikiLeaks, if you’ve looked at past history, you know, their focus isn’t necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible.”
Lonnie Snowden declined to comment when The Associated Press reached him Friday.
U.S. officials said their outreach to Russia, Ecuador and other countries where Edward Snowden might travel to or seek refuge is ongoing.
“We continue to be in touch, via diplomatic and law enforcement channels, with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or that could serve as a final destination, also in touch, clearly, with the Russian authorities,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters. “We’re advising governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and should not be allowed to proceed any further, other than necessary to return to the United States. So we continue to make that active case through diplomatic and law enforcement channels.”
Ventrell said the U.S. message to Russia has been consistent.
“We don’t want this to negatively impact bilateral relations. It’s understandable that there are some issues raised by this, but from our perspective, based on our cooperative history of law enforcement, and especially since the Boston bombings, that there’s certainly a basis for expelling Mr. Snowden,” he said, citing “the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him.”
The State Department revoked Edward Snowden’s visa last weekend.
Snowden intended to travel from Moscow with the intention of going on to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito but after he was held up in the Moscow airport, Ecuador asked Russia to let him take a commercial flight to meet Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in Vietnam or Singapore, where Patino was on a pre-planned official trip, in order to be taken back to Quito by Patino, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press.
Edward Snowden is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws for leaking information about NSA surveillance of Internet and telephone records to detect terrorist plots.
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