Edward Snowden, the man who leaked numerous documents relating to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, has now officially taken asylum in Russia. He’s been living inside the airport in Moscow since June 23 as he awaited the papers he needed in order to be able to leave the airport and actually go into Russia.
Snowden plans to stay in Russia for a while
Anna Aruntunyan and Doug Stanglin of USA Today report that although Russia has granted Snowden only one year of asylum, his attorney said he doesn’t have any plans to leave the country. His legal representative said when he was finally able to leave the Moscow airport today, a taxi transported him to an undisclosed location.
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Snowden had been stuck at the airport until the Russian Immigration Service issued papers which give him permission to live, work and travel in Russia for up to a year. The papers can be renewed each year.
His status as one of the most wanted people on the planet means that his actions will be monitored around the world. His legal representative said they will be keeping his location in Russia a secret. He has apparently said he will be ready to talk to the press after a day to adapt in his new home.
Doors are open to Snowden elsewhere
The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport earlier this year and put out an international arrest warrant for him on charges of espionage. He’s a wanted man because he shed light on the lengths to which the U.S. government is willing to go in order to keep tabs on everyone—even ordinary, everyday Americans.
If Russia doesn’t agree to let the NSA leaker stay there, four countries in Latin America have thrown the doors open wide. Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela have all offered him permanent asylum from the U.S. The NSA leaker has even been offered a job from Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur who founded Vkontakte, known within Russia as VK, which is basically the nation’s version of Facebook.
Washington seeks Snowden’s extradition
Washington is still trying to extradite Snowden on espionage charges for his leak of top secret surveillance programs at the NSA. Officials intimated that if he is returned to the U.S., he won’t face the death penalty. Moscow said it won’t surrender Snowden, although it required him to agree not to continue pursuing activities that are harmful to the U.S. while in asylum.
The NSA leaker’s presence in Russia continues to put a strain on relations between Washington and Moscow. President Obama is planning to attend the Group of 20 nations meeting in St. Petersburg next month and is planning a side trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.