Edward Snowden remains stuck at Moscow airport

2:18 PM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
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MOSCOW (USA TODAY) -- National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden ran into bureaucratic snags in his bid for temporary political asylum and was unable to leave his airport refuge as he had hoped, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The 30-year-old former defense contractor, who fled first to Hong Kong and then Russia, has been holed up in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23.

Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden's Russian lawyer, said after meeting with his client that Snowden is staying in the transit zone "for now" and "intends to stay in Russia, study Russian culture."

"Snowden looks well. I can't say he is happy or sad. He is in a situation when he is waiting for Russia's decision. He asked what to do next if he is refused asylum in Russia. He's trying to be brave," said Kucherena, according to Voice of Russia.

Snowden applied for political asylum on July 16. Kucherena had said earlier Wednesday that it appeared likely that Snowden would get the papers he needed to live temporarily in Russia pending a final decision.

"Unfortunately, the situation that has come about is not standard for Russia, (we are) facing some bureaucracy: the documents are still being considered. ... We will wait and hope that the issue will be resolved in next several days," RIA Novosti quoted Kucherena as saying.

The state news agency, citing unidentified sources, had reported earlier that Snowden had received the Federal Migration Service documents he needed to be able to live temporarily in the country.

Kucherena said a key certificate that is normally issued five days after an asylum seeker submits an application has taken longer in Snowden's case. The American did receive some FMS paperwork, the lawyer said, but not one that allows him to leave the transit zone.

As part of the procedure for obtaining temporary asylum, Snowden had his fingerprints taken, the news agency reported.

Even if Snowden is able to leave the airport, a final decision on his request for political asylum is expected to take at least three months.

After meeting with Snowden, Kucherena told Rossiya-24 channel that the paperwork was still held up.

"He would like to learn about Russia. I gave him books," Kucherena said. "He is still in the same shirt and jeans that he wore when he arrived."

He also said that Snowden is spending much of his time at the airport studying Russian.

Snowden faces U.S. charges under the Espionage Act for leaking information to reporters about the NSA's surveillance and data-gathering network. Snowden has said he took the step to "correct this wrongdoing."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the Obama administration, which wants Snowden returned to the U.S., is "seeking clarity" from Russia on his status and whether he can leave the airport.

Kucherena arrived at the airport Wednesday afternoon carrying a large paper bag, apparently containing paperwork in the case, RT.com reported.

He said he had also brought Snowden copies of Russian literature.

"I bought him Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, because I think that Raskolnikov, who killed the old pawnbroker woman ... I think he needs to read about that," he told Rossiya-24 channel. "I don't want to say there are similarities in inner contradictions, but still ... This is a world classic, and it will be interesting for him. And for dessert, I got him Chekhov."

In anticipation of a break in the case on Wednesday, Snowden had packed a single backpack with clothes and had left the capsule hotel in the transit zone where he has been for a month.

Snowden, whose U.S. passport has been revoked, has been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua but has found difficult to travel to those countries.

Kucherena told RT.com earlier Wednesday that Snowden may decide to become a permanent resident in Russia rather than stay in the country seeking an opportunity to get asylum elsewhere.

"He's planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in," the lawyer told RT.com.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 53% of Americans favor bringing criminal charges against Snowden, up from a June poll that found a plurality of 48% opposed to charging him with a crime.

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