NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has entered Russia, having been granted official papers by Moscow, it has been reported.
Russia Today tweeted the pictured photograph of papers Snowden needed to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport transit zone and enter Russia proper.
AP noted Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, made clear the latest NSA revelations, revealed yesterday, were from data handed over to the Guardian before Snowden agreed not to leak any more information. This is important because Vladimir Putin said Snowden could only gain asylum if he stopped leaking documents that could potentially strain the relationship between Russia and the United States.
“I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone,” Kucherena said, before showing a copy to the press.
Snowden, according to the papers, can stay in Russia for one year – until 31 July 2014 – although this can be extended upon request.
Crucially, now that Snowden is on Russian soil, the USA will not be able to have him extradited unless he wishes to go to America voluntarily.
Although Snowden was offered asylum by countries in Latin America, they insisted he would have to make his own way. This would have proved difficult as flights entered American air space, and even if they didn’t, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales had his personal airplane grounded over European territories in an unprecedented move.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has said because Snowden is the “most wanted person on earth, his security will be a priority”.
Kucherena claimed Snowden left the airport unaccompanied in a normal taxi. But Wikileaks said he was accompanied by group activist Sarah Harrison, and that his “welfare has been continuously monitored by WikiLeaks staff since his presence in Hong Kong”.
His lawyer added that Snowden will be talking to the press but “needs at least one day of privacy”.
A Russian official insisted the decision to grant Snowden asylum will not affect a planned visit to Moscow by US president Barack Obama.
“We are aware of the atmosphere being created in the US over Snowden, but we didn’t get any signals [indicating a possible cancellation of the visit] from American authorities,” the official said, speaking with news network RIA Novosti.