Wednesday 21 March 2018

Lawyer denies Snowden is poised to leave Moscow airport

Edward Snowden: 'no paperwork'
Edward Snowden: 'no paperwork'

Raf Sanchez Washington and Tom Balmforth Moscow

Edward Snowden's hopes of ending his month-long limbo in a Moscow airport have been dashed after hours of confusion about the fugitive's status.

Russia's state news agency had reported that the former US security contractor had been given permission to leave the transit zone at Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been waiting since late June, prompting an expectation that he would finally appear on Russian soil.

But the 30-year-old's Kremlin-linked lawyer emerged to deny the report, saying Mr Snowden, who has been charged by the US government with leaking details of its classified surveillance programmes, still did not have the paperwork to clear passport control.

The confused scene in Moscow raises further questions about the Russian government's plans for the whistleblower, prompting the White House to say it was "seeking clarity" on his status.

Mr Snowden has applied for a year-long temporary asylum in Russia but needs a short-term pass to leave the airport while his application is considered.

Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer with ties to Vladimir Putin's party, said Mr Snowden intended to stay in the country for the moment and was learning Russian. He said he had brought his client clothes and a copy of 'Crime and Punishment', the Russian novel about a murderer's conscience.

"He is of course anxious about it and I hope that this situation will be resolved in the nearest future," said Mr Kucherena.

Mr Snowden has been offered asylum in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela but has not attempted to reach them out of fear of being intercepted by the US.

In Washington, meanwhile, the Obama administration scrambled to head off a Congressional effort to strip US intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency of their powers to harvest mass data. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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