MOSCOW – Fugitive U.S. ex-security contractor Edward Snowden has agreed to Russia’s demand that he stop anti- American activity and asked for temporary asylum, a Russian lawyer advising him said.
Snowden “confirmed to me personally that he will accept these conditions,” Anatoly Kucherena said by phone Tuesday. Asked if that meant the American would stop leaking secret U.S. documents, the lawyer replied, “Yes.”
The 30-year-old, who exposed classified U.S. programs that collect telephone and Internet data, lodged his bid for temporary asylum earlier Tuesday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, said Kucherena, who assisted him with the application. President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused the U.S. of stranding Snowden in Moscow by putting pressure on other countries to prevent his travel through their airspace and deny him refuge.
Snowden’s presence in Russia has heightened tensions with the U.S. less than two months before Putin and President Obama are due to hold a summit in Moscow ahead of a meeting of Group of 20 nations.
The fugitive has been in Sheremetyevo’s transit area since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23. He’s been seeking asylum around the world as U.S. authorities press for his return to face prosecution. While Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have indicated they’d be willing to take him, Snowden said the U.S. and its European allies are blocking him from reaching a safe haven.
Snowden’s previous request for asylum in Russia was withdrawn 24 hours later after Putin insisted Snowden stop “anti-American” activities. The Russian leader is aware of the new application, which will be handled by the appropriate officials, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Tuesday in the eastern Siberian city of Chita.
While Russian immigration authorities can take as much as half a year to rule on a bid for political asylum, temporary refuge can be granted within days or within three months at the most, Kucherena told state television channel Rossiya 24.
“Because Snowden is fed up with being in the transit zone, he’s chosen this path,” the lawyer said. “His intention is to stay in Russia for the time being.”
Temporary asylum is valid for 12 months, after which it can be renewed indefinitely each year, and allows its holder to travel freely and work in Russia, according to Kucherena.
The Federal Migration Service will consider Snowden’s application within the legal timeframe, spokeswoman Zalina Kornilova said by phone. Snowden may be transferred to a center for asylum seekers or remain in the transit zone, Interfax reported, citing the head of the migration authority’s advisory council, Vladimir Volokh.
Snowden’s intention is still eventually to reach a third country if he can obtain safe passage, Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which has helped the fugitive American, said by phone from Reykjavik. Hrafnsson declined to comment on the reported pledge to stop revealing classified U.S. information.
Snowden, a former worker for government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., has been charged with three felonies in connection with the disclosure of top-secret U.S. National Security Agency programs that collect phone and Internet data.
In his asylum application, he listed the fear that he’ll face torture or the death penalty if he’s brought back to the U.S., Kucherena said, according to state news service RIA Novosti.
Snowden doesn’t face the death penalty under the espionage and theft charges the U.S. has brought against him. Each of three counts has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.