Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday left the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for over a month, after being granted one year’s asylum in Russia, his lawyer said.
Russia’s surprised decision to award Snowden asylum just two weeks after the application was made risks a diplomatic row with the United States, which had previously described such aprospect as “deeply disappointing”.
“Snowden has left Sheremetyevo airport. He has just been given a certificate that he has been awarded temporary asylum in Russia for one year”, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told media outlets.
The lawyer, who had held several meetings with Snowden and helped him make his asylum application on July 16, added his new place of residence would be kept secret forsecurity reasons.
Snowden, 30, is wanted on felony charges by the United States after leaking details of vast US surveillance programs, but Russia has refused to extradite
Interviewed by Rossiya 24 television, Kucherena held up a scanned copy of Snowden’s certificate granting him a year’s temporary asylum in Russia.
Snowden has been staying in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow since he flew in from Hong Kong on June 23. Until now, he had never formally crossed the Russian border.
His awarding of asylum status in Russia came two days after US soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage on Tuesday for leaking US secrets to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov rapidly sought to limit the potential diplomatic damage, saying that the situation should not affect relations with Washington.
He also played down speculation that the dispute over Snowden could prompt President Barack Obama to cancel a planned visit for bilateral talks to Moscow in September ahead of the Saint Petersburg G20 summit.
“We know what sort of noise surrounds this (situation) in America, but we have not received any signals from the United States” regarding the cancellation of Obama’s visit to Moscow, he added.
Putin’s Kremlin had sought to distance itself from the whole affair, saying the question was in the hands of the migration authorities.
Source: Al Manar