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24 Jul, 2013 11:42

Snowden asylum still under review, stays in airport for now

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will have to stay at a Moscow airport for a little longer as his asylum plea is still being reviewed by Russian immigration authorities, according to his lawyer.

Anatoly Kucherena said that the NSA-leaker plans to settle down in Russia. But for now, Snowden still cannot leave Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport.

As they met today, the lawyer handed Snowden the certificate proving that Russia’s Federal Migration Service is now reviewing his political asylum request.

Kucherena, who arrived at the airport at about 4pm Moscow time (12:00 GMT), had a large paper bag with him. Speculation immediately arose that he was carrying a document that would allow Snowden out of the transit zone.

“The certificate is not a document, political asylum request maybe reviewed within three months,”
the lawyer dispelled the rumor.

Kucherena did not give any specific date when documents should be issued. Asked about reasons for that, he explained that the delay in issuing all necessary documents to Snowden is due to the uniqueness of the situation.

#snowden advisor arrives... With paperwork?? pic.twitter.com/EtRqFud1HX

— Lindsay France (@LindsayFrance) July 24, 2013

When exclusively talking to RT, Kucherena revealed that he brought him books – by Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolay Karamzin - and some shirts.

“He has been wearing the same clothes for about a month, so I brought some clothes for him," Kucherena said.

As he arrived at the airport, the lawyer went straight to meet the whistleblower in the transit zone without taking time to speak to the journalists, saying he would do so only after consulting with his client.

Talking to RT, Kucherena stressed that Snowden’s safety is now “top priority”.

He said Snowden is thankful for words of support and goods he is getting from Russian people. The whistleblower asked to says special thanks to girls who have been worrying about his fate.

“When I told him that girls call him, he laughed and asked to give them his personal thanks for caring about him,” Kucherena said.

Snowden will meet the press as soon as the situation clears up, he added.

The lawyer said Snowden’s plans for the future include finding a job, “travel if possible and settling his life somehow.”

“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And I think that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in,” he told RT.

Edward Snowden, who has been living in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport since the day he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23, applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week.

His request followed weeks of searching for a way to leave the country, which he had intended to pass through only briefly on his way to another destination. However, he became stranded because the US revoked his passport.

It took Russian immigration authorities a week for an initial assessment of the asylum request. Apparently they decided to proceed with the request and issued Snowden provisional documents to that effect.

Earlier, Kucherena said Snowden may decide to become a permanent resident in Russia rather than stay there seeking an opportunity to get asylum elsewhere. It can take up to three months to either grant or reject the asylum request. If granted, temporary asylum would allow Snowden to remain in Russia for one year and be renewed annually. If the request is rejected by the Migration Service, Snowden may appeal the decision in court.

Snowden is wanted in the US over leaking classified documents detailing the massive surveillance programs of the National Security Agency. He is facing espionage charges if handed over to US custody. The US has been applying diplomatic pressure to countries which voiced their intention to harbor the fugitive.