Russia: We Have No Problem Letting Snowden Stay Here

The fugitive is likely going to have his request for another year of asylum approved, according to a Russian migration official.

A portrait of Edward Snowden declaring him a 'hero' is seen during a protest against government surveillance on October 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The disclosures of widespread surveillance by the US National Security Agency of US allies has caused an international uproar, with leaders in Europe and Latin America demanding an accounting from the United States. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Dustin Volz
July 11, 2014, 7:25 a.m.

Get ready for an­oth­er year of hand-wringing over Ed­ward Snowden’s Rus­si­an res­id­ency.

The fu­git­ive leak­er will likely have his ex­pir­ing asylum status re­newed as soon as next week, ac­cord­ing to a Rus­si­an im­mig­ra­tion of­fi­cial.

“I do not see any prob­lems in ex­tend­ing his tem­por­ary refugee status. His cir­cum­stances have not changed,” said an of­fi­cial of Rus­sia’s mi­gra­tion ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­fax news agency. “His life is still in danger, so the Fed­er­al Mi­gra­tion Ser­vice has every reas­on to ex­tend his status.”

Snowden, a former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency con­tract­or, ap­plied earli­er this week to re­new his tem­por­ary asylum, which ex­pires at the end of Ju­ly, ac­cord­ing to his Rus­si­an law­yer. He has lived in Rus­sia since last sum­mer, when his globe-trot­ting hunt for safe har­bor from U.S. au­thor­it­ies took him from Hong Kong — where he handed over clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence secrets to journ­al­ists Glenn Gre­en­wald and Laura Poitras — to Rus­sia.

Snowden has said he had hoped to fly on to Cuba or an­oth­er place in Lat­in Amer­ica, but the U.S. froze his pass­port, leav­ing him ma­rooned for weeks at an air­port in Mo­scow. Rus­sia even­tu­ally gran­ted Snowden’s one-year asylum re­quest, which fur­ther de­teri­or­ated the coun­try’s already-strained re­la­tions with the U.S.

U.S.-Rus­si­an re­la­tions have only worsened since then, and an ex­ten­sion of Snowden’s asylum, while not un­ex­pec­ted, is likely to fur­ther frus­trate the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin has on oc­ca­sion used Snowden as a sort of dip­lo­mat­ic prop, once an­swer­ing a ques­tion from the com­puter tech­ni­cian dur­ing a live town hall to claim the Krem­lin does not spy on its cit­izens in any fash­ion re­sem­bling the NSA’s in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing activ­it­ies.

Snowden, 30, has long said a re­turn to the U.S. was not pos­sible un­der cur­rent es­pi­on­age law. Des­pite calls from his crit­ics and sev­er­al prom­in­ent law­makers and of­fi­cials to “come home and face the mu­sic,” he has re­peatedly in­sisted that he would have “no chance” of earn­ing a fair tri­al.

Snowden has ad­op­ted a re­l­at­ively her­met­ic life­style in Rus­sia but has shown an eager­ness to be more vis­ible in re­cent months. His leaks have now fueled more than a year’s worth of in­vest­ig­at­ive re­ports in ma­jor pub­lic­a­tions around the world, the fal­lout from which con­tin­ues to have a glob­al im­pact. The dis­clos­ures have forced Pres­id­ent Obama and Con­gress to take steps to­ward re­form­ing as­pects of the NSA’s spy­ing pro­grams.

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