MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who allegedly leaked classified information about the U.S. government's surveillance programs, has officially requested temporary asylum in Russia, a Russian lawyer said on Tuesday.
Snowden, 30, has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23 and hopes to seek permanent asylum in Latin America. He already has offers of asylum from Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
"He reached the conclusion that he needs to write an application for temporary asylum (in Russia), and his procedure has just been done," said Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who met the fugitive on Friday together with human rights activists, Reuters reported.
"For now, he is not going to go anywhere. For now, he plans to stay in Russia," he said.
The head of Russia's Federal Migration Service (FMS) confirmed that it had received Snowden's formal application.
The Kremlin also emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be the person deciding Snowden's fate.
"If we are talking about temporary asylum, then this is an issue not for the president but for the Federal Migration Service," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
In Russia, as soon as a formal application for asylum is submitted, immigration authorities hold a hearing of up to five days to decide whether to send a case into an examination period, Russian news service RIA Novosti reported. That examination period can be as long as three months and can also be extended for another three months after that.
According to an unnamed source cited by RIA Novosti, applicants will occasionally be issued a temporary ID card protecting them from deportation and allowing them to leave the airport and live a normal life in Russia for the duration of the process.
In theory, Snowden could be issued such a card within the next five days.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published July 16 2013, 7:26 AM