News Column

Snowden Could Leave Moscow Airport Soon

July 17, 2013

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden could soon leave the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for more than three weeks, his Russian lawyer said Wednesday.

"I think he will be free to leave Sheremetyevo's transit zone in the next few days," said Anatoly Kucherena, in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

Snowden has been unable to leave the airport's transit area since June 23 because the United States has revoked his passport. He formally filed papers Tuesday seeking asylum in Russia.

Kucherena said Snowden had not ruled out applying for Russian citizenship.

"Right now he does not exclude anything," he said, according to Rapsi news agency.

The lawyer explained that Snowden could leave the airport once the Russian Migration Service issued him a certificate saying his asylum application was under review, and Snowden could choose where to stay in Moscow - "in a hotel or in a refugee centre."

Russia's Migration Service has said that temporary asylum takes three months to process.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden has been warned that Russia will not tolerate any activities that harm relations with the United States.

"International relations are more important than squabbles between intelligence agencies," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying. "We warned Mr Snowden that any activities that harm Russian-US relations are unacceptable."

Putin reiterated that Snowden should not leak any sensitive US information while in Russia.

Kucherena has said that Snowden has accepted the restrictions, which the US fugitive had previously rejected.

The US Olympic Committee dismissed a US lawmaker's call to boycott next year's Winter Olympics in Russia if Moscow grants Snowden asylum.

"If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work," spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Wednesday, noting that the Western boycott of the Moscow Games - in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - only hurt US athletes who were denied a chance to compete.

"Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict," he said. "While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests."

In an interview published Tuesday in The Hill newspaper, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, suggested a boycott of the 2014 Games in Sochi, to send a message to Moscow after Snowden sought temporary asylum in Russia.

White House spokesman Jay Carney stressed that the US was focussed on getting Snowden returned to the US to face charges and was not considering an Olympic boycott.

Carney refused to comment directly on whether Obama would visit Moscow for meetings with Putin during a trip to the Group of 20 summit in September in Saint Petersburg, noting only that Obama would attend the summit and that he had no changes to announce to the travel plans. Officials had previously said the presidents would meet in Moscow ahead of the summit.

A series of media reports detailing US surveillance of online communications across Europe are believed to have originated from Snowden leaks, including revelations about the US PRISM programme.

On Wednesday, German authorities attempted to head off claims contained in a media report that the nation's military had known about the PRISM programme for several years, by revealing that NATO operated a system under the same name. The German government said the two systems were not identical.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular press briefing in Berlin that NATO operates a PRISM surveillance programme in Afghanistan but that it is different to the US programme.

The Afghanistan system is run not by the US but NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan, he said.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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