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Lawyer: Snowden still wants temporary asylum in Russia, will stay in airport

Anatoly Kucherena, the Russian lawyer assisting former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, speaks to the media at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow Wednesday. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

MOSCOW – NSA leaker Edward Snowden will remain in the transit area of a Moscow airport reading Russian literature while authorities consider his request for temporary asylum, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who helped the American file his bid for temporary asylum on July 16, said Snowden was still waiting for documents that would allow him to cross the border into Russia.

That contradicted earlier reports on Russian state media that the documents had been issued. Interfax and RIA Novosti both reported that the Federal Migration Service had given Snowden the necessary permission to leave the transit zone, where he has been holed up for more than a month. There was no immediate explanation for the contradiction.

Kucherena, who was visiting Snowden at the airport, said the self-declared leaker planned to learn more about Russian culture.

He said he had given Snowden a copy of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to read.

Those comments make it increasingly likely that Snowden might seek permanent asylum in Russia.

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have all said they would grant him political asylum.

However, Kucherena told Reuters earlier Wednesday that Snowden believes it is unsafe to attempt travel to Latin America soon because of U.S. efforts to return him to the United States to face espionage charges.

Snowden has not ruled out seeking Russian citizenship, Kucherena told Reuters.

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The former U.S. intelligence contractor is wanted by Washington for disclosing details of secret surveillance programs. Snowden's American passport was canceled and he has been in the Sheremetyevo airport transit zone, which includes a hotel, since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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