Snowden submits request for asylum in Russia
American whistleblower Edward Snowden has sought asylum in Russia in his first encounter with the outside world since becoming marooned at a Moscow airport three weeks ago during a globe-trotting flight from charges of espionage.
His move prompted the White House to say US President Barack Obama would call Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and presumably demand the return of the 30-year-old former analyst at the National Security Agency who provoked one of the biggest intelligence leaks in US history.
White House spokesman Jay Carney warned Russia against allowing Mr Snowden a "propaganda platform" by letting him stay.
He said it would "run counter" to Moscow's assurances that it did not want the Snowden affair to harm US-Russia relations.
He renewed Washington's call for Russia to expel Mr Snowden so he could be returned to American soil to face trial for leaking secrets.
There were chaotic scenes after Mr Snowden invited human rights groups and senior Russian officials to meet him at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been trapped in a closed area of the transit zone since he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23.
At least 200 TV crews stampeded through Terminal F to see a group of 10 human rights activists, lawyers and at least one Russian MP ushered through a door.
The guests were transported by bus to a meeting with Mr Snowden, who was accompanied by British WikiLeaks activist Sarah Harrison.
"Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort," said the fugitive, who fled his job and girlfriend in Hawaii to go to Hong Kong where he revealed secrets about US surveillance operations.
He said he had no regrets about exposing details of "massive, pervasive surveillance" by US intelligence agencies, but added that he was forced to apply for "temporary political asylum" in Russia while he secured an onward route to Latin America, where he hoped to seek final refuge, despite having no passport.
"Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity," he said.
His request for refuge gained immediate support from some senior Russian political figures, including Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, and the Kremlin indicated that his application would be reviewed.
Tanya Lokshina, of Human Rights Watch's Moscow bureau, who was among those who attended the 45-minute meeting, said afterwards that the American had appeared in good health.
Mr Snowden was asked if he would meet Mr Putin's condition for staying in Russia – that he did nothing to "harm our American partners" – which was issued when the American made an earlier application.
Ms Lokshina said: "Snowden said he did not find the condition problematic because Putin said he would be ready to give him asylum in the case that he stopped damaging Russia's partners.
"And in his (Snowden's) perception, whatever he has done and is planning to do does not harm the United States. He stressed that he wanted the US to succeed and do well."
Others who attended said Mr Snowden had made it clear that his eventual destination was Latin America.
Ms Lokshina said that before the meeting she had received a call from a representative of the US embassy in Moscow, asking her to pass on a message from Michael McFaul, the US ambassador, to Mr Snowden that "he's no whistleblower, that he broke the law and should be held accountable". (©Daily Telegraph, London)