U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden will have to continue his stay at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while Russian authorities consider his request for temporary asylum, his lawyer said on Wednesday, denying earlier reports that Snowden was granted permission by Russia to leave the airport.
The NSA whistle-blower, who has been stuck in the airport since arriving there on June 23 from Hong Kong, is yet to receive documents that would allow him to leave the airport’s transit zone and enter Russian soil, Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who helped the former U.S. defense contractor file his bid for temporary asylum on July 16, told a news conference at the airport, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Kucherena denied earlier reports that said Russia’s Federal Migration Service had handed over necessary documents for Snowden to leave the airport, and added that Snowden intends to stay in Russia for some time once he is granted entry.
The U.S. state department on Wednesday that it has sought clarification from the Russian government on Snowden’s status, adding that “any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing.”
State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, earlier on Wednesday and reiterated that Snowden needs to be returned to the U.S., where he will have a fair trial for leaking U.S. intelligence information. However, Psaki declined to reveal what Lavrov’s response was or whether it was in favor of the U.S.
Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have expressed readiness to offer refuge to Snowden, although he would encounter technical difficulties in traveling to any of these countries because his U.S. passport has been revoked. Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia until his safe travel to one of the Latin American nations could be arranged.
Russia has so far refused to grant a request from the U.S. for Snowden’s extradition, but if the former provides temporary refuge to Snowden, it would damage its diplomatic ties with the U.S., although Russian President Vladimir Putin said Snowden has been warned against taking any actions that would damage relations between Moscow and Washington.