MOSCOW — Russia granted American fugitive Edward Snowden a year’s asylum yesterday, allowing the former US spy agency contractor to slip quietly out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after more than five weeks in limbo but angering the United States.
The White House, which wants Snowden sent home to face trial for leaking details of government surveillance programmes, signalled that President Barack Obama might boycott a summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September and one official said high-level talks next week were “up in the air”.
“We see this as an unfortunate development and we are extremely disappointed by it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We are evaluating the utility of the summit.”
Snowden has avoided the hordes of reporters trying to find him since he landed from Hong Kong on June 23, and gave them the slip again as he left the transit area where he had been holed up. Almost unnoticed, he was driven away from the airport by car.
“Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law but in the end the law is winning,” Snowden, whose first leaks were published two months ago, was quoted as saying by the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group which has assisted him.
“I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”
Grainy images on state television showed the 30-year-old’s document, which is similar to a Russian passport, and revealed that he had been granted asylum for a year from July 31.
A Russian lawyer assisting Snowden said he had gone to a safe location which would remain secret, and that he could now work and travel freely in the country of 142 million.
State television also showed a picture of Snowden, wearing a backpack and a blue button-up shirt, getting into a grey car at the airport driven by a young man in a baseball cap.
“He is the most wanted man on planet Earth,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer with links to the authorities, told Reuters. “He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going.”
“He can live wherever he wants in Russia. It’s his personal choice,” he said. (Reuters)