Russia says no asylum request yet from fugitive Snowden

Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden speaks to human rights representatives in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. Credit: Reuters
Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden speaks to human rights representatives in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Credit: Reuters

Russia kept former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden at arm’s length on Saturday, saying it had not been in touch with the fugitive American and had not yet received a formal request for political asylum.

Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled Russia is weighing its options after Snowden, who is stranded at a Moscow airport, broke three weeks of silence and asked for refuge in Russia until he can secure safe passage to Latin America.

Washington urged Moscow to return Snowden to the United States, where he is wanted on espionage charges after revealing details of secret surveillance programs, and President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Snowden’s leaks about U.S. spy methods, including eavesdropping on global email traffic, have upset Washington’s friends and foes alike. Stuck at Sheremetyevo airport with his passport revoked, he has become an irritant in relations between the United States and Russia.

“We are not in contact with Snowden,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in Kyrgyzstan, where he attended a foreign ministers’ meeting.

He said he had learned of Snowden’s meeting with Russian human rights activists and public figures at the airport on Friday from the media, “just like everyone else.”

Snowden, who had previously kept out of sight since arriving in the airport’s transit zone on June 23, told the activists that he would submit his asylum request the same day.

Lavrov said that under Russian law, asylum seekers must first make an official appeal to the Federal Migration Service. But its director, Konstantin Romodanovsky, said on Saturday the agency had not yet received such a request from Snowden.

Snowden, who worked at a National Security Agency facility, in Hawaii, revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of data such as emails and chat rooms from companies including Facebook and Google, under a government program called Prism.

He fled to Hong Kong and then flew to Moscow, where he and Russian officials say he has remained in the airport transit zone. He has no visa to enter Russia.

Snowden is useful as a propaganda tool for Putin, who accuses the U.S. government of preaching to the world about rights and freedoms it does not uphold at home. But his presence on Russia’s doorstep is a double-edged sword.

Putin has invited Obama for a bilateral summit in Moscow in September, and asylum for Snowden could jeopardize that, even though both countries have signaled they want to improve ties that have been strained in Putin’s third presidential term.

And while pro-Kremlin politicians have been avidly casting Snowden, 30, as a rights defender, former KGB officer Putin said last month that the surveillance methods he revealed were largely justified if applied lawfully.

Putin has said twice that Snowden should choose a final destination and go there, and on July 2 he said Russia could only take Snowden in if he stopped activities “aimed at harming our American partners”.

Putin’s spokesman said on Friday that the condition, which prompted Snowden to withdraw an earlier asylum request, still stood.

Snowden has asked some 20 countries for asylum and received offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, but he said on Friday that Western states had made it “impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there”.

The United States has urged nations not to give him passage, and a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia last week was denied access to the airspace of several European countries on suspicion Snowden might be on board.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.