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Snowden leaves airport after Russia grants asylum

By Vladimir Isachenkov

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:58 a.m. HST, Aug 01, 2013

MOSCOW » National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden left the transit zone of a Moscow airport and officially entered Russia after authorities granted him asylum for a year, his lawyer said today, a move that suggests the Kremlin isn't shying away from further conflict with the United States.

Snowden's whereabouts will be kept a secret for security reasons, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said, making it even harder to keep track of the former NSA systems analyst, who has been largely hiding out at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.

The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage over his leaks that revealed wide U.S. Internet surveillance practices, but Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the request. In a statement released by WikiLeaks, Snowden thanked Russia and lashed out at the Obama administration.

"Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning," he said. "I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations."

The move already appears to have further strained tense U.S.-Russian relations amid differences over Syria, U.S. criticism of Russia's human rights record and other disputes. Putin has said his asylum was contingent on him not hurting U.S. interests, but the Kremlin could have interpreted that to exclude documents he had already leaked to newspapers that continue to trickle out.

The White House insisted Snowden isn't a whistleblower or dissident, saying the move to grant him asylum undermines Russia's record of cooperation with the U.S. Spokesman Jay Carney said that the White House is re-evaluating whether a planned fall summit with President Barack Obama and Putin should still go ahead.

In his application for asylum, Snowden said he feared he could face torture or capital punishment if he is returned to the U.S., though the U.S. has promised Russia that is not the case. The U.S. has revoked his passport, and the logistics of him reaching other countries that have offered him asylum, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, are complicated.

"He now is one of the most sought-after men in the world," Kucherena told reporters at the airport. "The issue of security is very important for him."

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 Snowdenpromised to stop leaking as a requirement of getting asylum.

The one-year asylum can be extended indefinitely, and Snowden also has the right to seek Russian citizenship. According to the rules set by the Russian government, a person who has temporary asylum would lose it if he travels abroad.

Kucherena said it would be up to Snowden to decide whether to travel to any foreign destination, but added that "he now has no such plans."

Snowden's father said in remarks broadcast Wednesday on Russian television that he would like to visit his son. Kucherena said he is arranging the trip.

WikiLeaks, which has adopted Snowden's cause, said in its statement that legal adviser Sarah Harrison has been with him in the transit zone for 39 days and remains with him. It said only that they left the airport in a taxi and that they are heading to a "secure, confidential place."

The group also praised Russia for providing him shelter.

"We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden," WikiLeaks said on Twitter. "We have won the battle — now the war."

Kucherena said that Snowden spent little time packing. The lawyer said the fugitive had friends in Russia, including some Americans, who could help ensure his security, but wouldn't elaborate.

"He has got friends, including on Russian territory, American friends, who would be able to ensure his safety for the time being," Kucherena said.

He refused to say whether Snowden would stay in Moscow or move to stay elsewhere in Russia, saying the fugitive would discuss the issue with his family.

Kucherena argued that Russia did the right thing by offering shelter to Snowden despite U.S. pressure. "Russia has fulfilled a humanitarian mission with regard to the U.S. citizen who has found himself in a difficult situation," he said, voicing hope that the U.S. wouldn't try to slam Russia with sanctions.

Putin's foreign affairs aide, Yuri Ushakov, sought today to downplay the impact on relations between the two countries.

"This issue isn't significant enough to have an impact on political relations," he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

But Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Russian decision to grant asylum to Snowden would hurt ties.

"Edward Snowden is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia," the Democratic lawmaker said.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran of Russia's human rights movement and head of the respected Moscow Helsinki Group, welcomed the news on asylum for Snowden, but added that his quest for freedom of information has landed him in a country that has little respect for that and other freedoms.

"Having fought for the freedom and rights, Snowden has ended up in a country that cracks down on them," Alexeyeva said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch sounded a similar note. "He cannot but be aware of the unprecedented crackdown on human rights that the government has unleashed in the past 15 months," Denber said in an e-mailed comment.

Putin has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent since his inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012, with the Kremlin-controlled Parliament stamping a series of laws that introduced heavy fines for participants in unsanctioned protests and imposed tough restrictions on non-government organizations.

A law passed in June imposes hefty fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies, a move that has prompted gays in the U.S. and elsewhere to call for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Laura Mills contributed to this report.

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honokai wrote:
An american dissident seeking asylum in Russia. How times have changed.
on August 1,2013 | 02:52AM
cojef wrote:
After living in various countries, he will come to appreciate the life-style we have in the US, regardless of all the faults that exist. Our form of democracy is a work in progress and still need much improvements. This work in progress has been slow and an arduous trip. Examples, civil, women and gay rights, immigration reforms, and many others. The actions he took can be argued and discussed, however the route he chose may be considered very dangerous, especially the current situation. First, he fled to Hong Kong, and then to Moscow, the two worst places he could have chosen, unless he had ulterior motives to unload and make known the highly classified intelligence data he had downloaded clandestinely, for what purpose. He alone knows the extent of intelligence data that possess on his laptops. My question is how safe are the downloaded material, now that he is in Moscow? That is the most important issue, not whether it was noble for him to disclose what our government has been doing to the detriment of the citizens or whether he is a traitor. It is not about him, it is what danger or harm he has done to our intelligence gathering abilities for the future to keep America safe.
on August 1,2013 | 06:14AM
honokai wrote:
Everyone keeps bringing up the harm he brought but no one can say what that harm is. Is the harm that we know have a better idea on how the NSA violates our freedoms. The NSA director is now saying there have been "compliance" problems. We sure as heck need to know what our government is doing to our constitution. If they are shredding it and piercing it through activities "not in compliance" then we NEED whistle-blowers.
on August 1,2013 | 06:42AM
Grimbold wrote:
He is a hero and a martyr! He exposed the foul play of official spying on everybody which is against all our laws.
on August 1,2013 | 06:49AM
loquaciousone wrote:
A a good Russian too.
on August 1,2013 | 07:10AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Good thing Russia doesn't have laws against spying on their own citizens. Now he can live contentedly on vodka and bread.
on August 1,2013 | 07:41AM
Aieagrl wrote:
At least russia doesn't hide it from the people.
on August 1,2013 | 08:55AM
loquaciousone wrote:
But Russia is really good at hiding their high unemployment and alcohol problems. I bet in 2014 when they host the winter Olympics you won't see one drunk laying in the streets of Moscow.
on August 1,2013 | 09:08AM
Slow wrote:
And they dance around in big heavy shoes too. Not that this is relevant to anything. Snowden is a courageous man.
on August 1,2013 | 10:52AM
XML808 wrote:
Yeah, so now he gives Russia the technological insight so that Russia can do the same thing the US is doing. And don't think for a second that Russian hackers cannot gain access US databases. Snowden should burn in hell.
on August 1,2013 | 07:50AM
Fred01 wrote:
You are a coward.
on August 1,2013 | 11:56AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
And you are a fool, Russia now has everything he stole.
on August 1,2013 | 04:29PM
scooters wrote:
What fool you are. maybe you should join him...
on August 1,2013 | 07:54AM
allie wrote:
He is no hero and no martyr. I am fine with the security measures that seek to keep us safe. Let just one AQ attack succeed and all of you will be screaming for more surveillance.
on August 1,2013 | 07:55AM
waverider808 wrote:
for the first time in my life I am agreeing with troll allie....must be warm in hell.....
on August 1,2013 | 11:27AM
Fred01 wrote:
Careful. Your position is foolish.
on August 1,2013 | 11:57AM
krusha wrote:
He'll probably end up like Sergei Magnitsky... The U.S. should just send in their black-ops team to extract Snowden from Russia.
on August 1,2013 | 09:24AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Extract or terminate.
on August 1,2013 | 04:30PM
bully106 wrote:
not only did he expose the government's invasion of privacy but your "hero and martyr" divulged classified information to the world putting our nation's security in jeopardy. he is a traitor who will be conveniently wasted after russia sucks out all the into they can from his pathetic little brain. putin hates traitors and after he has his way with snowden the young man will be dog meat for the siberian huskies.
on August 1,2013 | 10:43AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
You know that, I'm sure KGB Putin let him sweat it out at the airport until he agreed to provide ALL the info to him. He knew Snowden would cave in eventually, no other choice but come home and face jail.
on August 1,2013 | 04:33PM
lee1957 wrote:
He exposed the foul play of official spying, that has been upheld by the courts. Have fun comrade Snowden.
on August 1,2013 | 11:46AM
Fred01 wrote:
You should be deported.
on August 1,2013 | 11:58AM
808behappy wrote:
He is no hero!
on August 1,2013 | 12:43PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
You should move to Russia with him if you think giving US government secrets to our enemies makes him a hero. More like Traitor ... they used to hang people for what he did.
on August 1,2013 | 04:24PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Not a dissident, he's a defector. He should be kidnapped and brought back to face US justice. He has no respect for US law and will be hunted for the rest of his life. I hope he lives to regret his decision to betray his country and flee to our greatest rival. Traitor!
on August 1,2013 | 04:20PM
kalico11 wrote:
He a'int no hero. Hero's wear the uniform!
on August 1,2013 | 07:07AM
eoe wrote:
Heroes understand punctuation.
on August 1,2013 | 08:45AM
RichardCory wrote:
So heroes are drones who follow orders without thinking? Wow, I guess that makes the vast majority of people heroes. Good to know.
on August 1,2013 | 09:33AM
eoe wrote:
First it was a joke. Second if this were an actual serious discussion and not a joke, I would say the vast majority of people don't use punctuation correctly.
on August 1,2013 | 09:40AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Heroes don't disclose government secrets to our enemies, Traitors and defectors do that!
on August 1,2013 | 04:36PM
loquaciousone wrote:
At least Snowden is now in a country that respects citizen's rights and privacy and would NEVER spy on it's own people like that DASTARDLY United States of America.
on August 1,2013 | 07:10AM
scooters wrote:
Are you for real? Go with him then...
on August 1,2013 | 07:55AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Why? I don't have any secrets that Putin is interested in.
on August 1,2013 | 07:57AM
Hanalei13 wrote:
You obviously don't appreciate the sarcasm of loquaciousone...
on August 1,2013 | 08:28AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
No... she's not "for real". Have you never heard of sarcasm?
on August 1,2013 | 04:37PM
scooters wrote:
Now lets see if OBAMA has any "Kintama's" to punish the Ruskies...I doubt it.
on August 1,2013 | 07:53AM
allie wrote:
Punish? Why? For what reason? We need an alliance with Russia to fight terrorism in both countries. Russia is not the enemy. You are.
on August 1,2013 | 07:56AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Wait is that you Stan and Ollie..
on August 1,2013 | 08:03AM
pakeheat wrote:
Russia is the enemy, try reading the Bible?
on August 1,2013 | 08:10AM
RichardCory wrote:
This is the most hilarious thing I have read all week. Thanks for the laugh.
on August 1,2013 | 09:31AM
Slow wrote:
I hope you don't vote.
on August 1,2013 | 10:54AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Russia has the only military in the world that could challenge the US. You ever heard of the "cold war". Or don't they teach social studies on the reservation?
on August 1,2013 | 04:40PM
kennysmith wrote:
well we will see if the russia like to here about the usa about them to?. i don't think they will like what he will tell them then.
on August 1,2013 | 08:50AM
Iuki wrote:
A year should be more than enough time for them to get all his information, one way or another. Then he will probably just disappear, and it won't be because the US did anything to him.
on August 1,2013 | 08:53AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I hope Snowden isn't gay because it's actually illegal to be gay in Russia.
on August 1,2013 | 09:22AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I hope Snowden isn't gay because it's actually illegal to be gay in Russia.
on August 1,2013 | 09:22AM
mrluke wrote:
C'mon Obama, time to show those Ruskies what you're made of! Fat chance!
on August 1,2013 | 09:40AM
eoe wrote:
Please share with the group what you would do were you the president. I am fascinated.
on August 1,2013 | 10:09AM
nuuanusam wrote:
If he thinks Russia is a better place and America is the big evil of the world; let him stay in Russia.
on August 1,2013 | 10:32AM
hon2255 wrote:
Enjoy Russia Snowden, it's a miserable place to live. Cold and Gray. You'll find out. Your buddies aka comrades will suck all the information they can out of you and throw you away you idiot ,traitor, this guy is just a scuz bag.
on August 1,2013 | 11:09AM
hon2255 wrote:
Snowden , enjoy life in Russia, it's miserable there.
on August 1,2013 | 11:09AM
Fred01 wrote:
Good for Russia!
on August 1,2013 | 11:54AM
Anonymous wrote:
He went from a six-figure job in Hawaii, living with a pole dancer...to being unemployed in a country where he probably doesn't even speak the language. How's that workin' for ya?
on August 1,2013 | 12:53PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
I think we need to understand that Snowden is really an insignificant pawn in a larger political game. For Putin and Russia, he is at most an asset to trade away down the road for something or at the very least to be an irritant to the USA. We of course want him back so we can give him a fair trial then lock him in a SuperMax facility for the rest of his sorry life, just to make sure that no one else gets the idea that you can release NSA data and get away with it. We will punish Russia one way or another for this, it will be diplomatically or some other quite way, but its only a matter of time before Russia decides that the cost of harboring this guy is too much, and then the KGB will show up at Snowden's door and bundles him onto a flight to western Europe where Snowden will be apprehended and sent to the good ole USA.
on August 1,2013 | 02:04PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
That won't happen until he reveals all he stole, if he hasn't already done that. Putin may make him "disappear" once he's no good to them.
on August 1,2013 | 04:44PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
The Russians would not be giving him asylum if he had not provided everything he stole from the NSA to them. The damage done to national security is immeasurable because we don't know the extent of the info he stole. Whatever he stole, you can bet the Russians have it now.
on August 1,2013 | 04:26PM
gari wrote:
"Meta data" idea was Snowden the one that made it surface . ?? and on the negative side ; can meta data show some election tendencies and possibilities ?if yes then the president in power will in directly have the upper hand . No one knows what this meta data is; does the congress know? and how much did they know ? we need a fair democracy. .with checks and balances ...aloha
on August 1,2013 | 04:31PM
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