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© REUTERS/ Courtesy of The Guardian/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras

Snowden says yes to Russia for now – rights activists

by Anna Arutunyan at 12/07/2013 18:58

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said he wants to remain in Russia and ask for temporary asylum, rights activists who met with him on Friday said.

Snowden will comply with President Vladimir Putin’s conditions to stop “harming” U.S. interests so that he can stay in Russia, Duma Deputy Vycheslav Nikonov said after a meeting with Snowden.

“Asked if Russia is a serious choice for him, he said he doesn’t have any other choice because he’s here right now,” Nikonov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying after an hour-long meeting with Snowden in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport.

Earlier the Rossiya 24 news channel cited a participant of the meeting as saying that Snowden had asked for the help of Russian human rights activists in obtaining temporary asylum in Russia.

Other reports cited Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow branch of Human Rights Watch, who was present at the meeting, as saying that Snowden did not believe Putin’s statements that continuing his leaks and thus “harming” U.S. interests would cause him problems.

Lokshina could not be reached by phone on Friday evening.

"I am only in a position to accept Russia's offer because of my inability to travel," Snowden was quoted as saying in a tweet from the The New York Times’s Ellen Barry, who had been posting information from Lokshina.

“Snowden wants the people present at the meeting to intervene with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on his behalf,” Barry tweeted, citing Lokshina.

Snowden was reported to have applied for asylum in 21 countries last week, including Russia and Venezuela. His request for Russian asylum was lodged on July 1 at the airport consular desk of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, but shortly after the Kremlin said Snowden had changed his mind.

On July 2 Putin said that Snowden can remain in Russia on “one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our US partners.”

Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport turned into a circus on Monday after some 200 journalists descended on the area amid reports that Snowden had invited human rights activists to meet with him, according to televised footage.

Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency wanted by the United States for leaking reports about a top-secret surveillance program, has been holed up in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23, when he flew in from Hong Kong.

Because his U.S. passport was annulled and he does not have a Russian visa, Snowden cannot leave the transit zone until obtaining political asylum either in Russia or a third country. He is also on a no-fly list as requested by U.S. authorities, Vyacheslav Nikonov told Rossiya 24.

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