National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has officially applied for temporary asylum in Russia, a lawyer told news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
Anatoly Kucherena, a member of the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body, said Snowden had submitted the required paperwork to an official from Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) in the lawyer’s presence inside Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Kucherena was among those who met with Snowden last Friday after the whistleblower broke his days-long silence and asked a group of Russian lawyers and human rights workers to help him secure asylum in Russia.
The move puts the Kremlin in an uncomfortable position.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled in comments yesterday that he would like Snowden to leave Russia as soon as possible, noting that the whistleblower has become a burdensome “gift” for Russian authorities.
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The leader also criticized the United States for bullying other countries into refusing shelter for Snowden.
“They spooked all the other countries — no one wants to take him, and in that sense, they blocked him on our territory,” RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying.
He acknowledged, however, that Snowden plans to move onto a third country — likely Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua — once he receives permanent asylum there.
Putin had earlier issued a stipulation that the whistleblower should stop his “workaimed at harming our American partners” if he wanted to stay in Russia.
Some observers have suggested that the Snowden affair is quickly becoming one of the most prominent thorns in an already strained US-Russian relationship.
Snowden, whose passport has been revoked, has remained in a transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.