Snowden applies for asylum in Russia

Moscow, July 2 (IANS/EFE) Former US government contractor Edward Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia, a Russian diplomat said Monday.

British attorney Sarah Harrison, who accompanied the whistle-blower from Hong Kong to Moscow, filed the asylum application on Snowden’s behalf at the Russian consular post inside this capital’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, consul Kim Shevchenko told the Interfax news agency.

Snowden, a former CIA employee and government contractor who has provided documents exposing the US National Security Agency’s massive surveillance of global telephonic and Internet communications, has been stuck in the Sheremetyevo transit area since June 23.

Washington, which is charging Snowden under the 1917 Espionage Act, revoked his US passport, leaving him unable to board a commercial flight until and unless some other government provides him with travel documents.

The 29-year-old American has also sought asylum from several other countries, including Ecuador.

It was at around this time last year that Quito extended asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London because Britain refuses to grant him safe conduct to the airport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Snowden would have to forgo making any further revelations about the US government if he wished to remain in Russia permanently.

“If he wants to go somewhere and they accept him, please, be my guest,” Putin said at a news conference prior to Shevchenko’s comments to Interfax. “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips.”

At the same time, the Russian president dismissed the possibility that Moscow would extradite Snowden to the US.

“Russia never gives up anyone to anybody and is not planning to,” Putin said.

–IANS/EFE

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