MOSCOW (CBSDC/AP) — After being holed up for a month at Moscow airport’s transit zone, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has reportedly been allowed into Russia.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena tells The Associated Press that Snowden was issued papers that allowed him to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport where he has been stuck since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. Snowden fled Hong Kong in fears that he would have been extradited to the United States after giving classified information to The Guardian and The Washington Post about how the NSA spies on Americans.
Russia Today reports that Snowden was granted a one-year asylum by Russian officials. Snowden was also offered asylum by Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Due to Snowden’s temporary asylum, he legally cannot be handed over to U.S. authorities, according to Russia Today.
“Edward Snowden has successfully acquired refugee status in Russia and will shortly leave the airport,” WikiLeaks posted on Twitter. “We can now confirm that Edward Snowden’s welfare has been continuously monitored by WikiLeaks staff since his presence in Hong Kong.”
WikiLeaks added: “We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle–now the war.”
CBS News reports that Snowden left the airport in a taxi and did not speak to media.
Kucherena says Snowden will be staying at an undisclosed location for security reasons.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded on Twitter to Russia giving Snowden temporary asylum.
“Snowden stays in the land of transparency and human rights,” McCain tweeted. “Time to hit that reset button again Russia.”
During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney said Russia did not tell U.S. officials ahead of time that they were offering asylum to Snowden.
Carney said the White House is “extremely disappointed” in Russia’s decision and that they are re-evaluating whether a planned summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin this fall should still occur.
Putin previously warned that Snowden could be granted asylum on condition he agrees not to hurt U.S. interests — implying that the American would have to stop leaking material on Washington’s spying efforts.
The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday published a new report on U.S. intelligence-gathering based on information from Snowden, but Kucherena said the material was provided before Snowden promised to stop leaking.
Kucherena said that Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons.
The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but Putin has dismissed the request.
The U.S. State Department revoked Snowden’s visa, making travel to the South American countries offering him asylum virtually impossible.
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