Russia to Snowden: Stay as Long as You Like

National Journal
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 24, 2014, 3:20 a.m.

Rus­sia just made Ed­ward Snowden’s life a lot easi­er. The fu­git­ive doesn’t want to re­turn to the U.S., and now it looks like he won’t have to any­time soon, as a seni­or Rus­si­an of­fi­cial opened the door to Snowden stay­ing there in­def­in­itely.

Rus­sia will ex­tend Snowden’s one-year asylum and will not send him back to his home coun­try, said Alexy Pushkov, the head of the coun­try’s For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in its lower house, at the World Eco­nom­ic For­um in Da­v­os, Switzer­land, ac­cord­ing to CNN. The coun­try pre­vi­ously gran­ted Snowden asylum as a “tem­por­ary refugee” in Au­gust.

Snowden’s where­abouts and globe-trot­ting hunt for safe har­bor from U.S. au­thor­it­ies has cap­tiv­ated much of the world since his leaks began last June. He fled from Hong Kong to Rus­sia and had hoped to make it to Cuba be­fore the U.S. froze his pass­port, leav­ing him trapped in a Mo­scow air­port in a sort of leg­al pur­gat­ory. Rus­sia provided Snowden with the one-year asylum re­quest, a de­cision that fur­ther strained the coun­try’s re­la­tions with the U.S.

Rus­sia’s an­nounce­ment comes a day after Snowden re­spon­ded to ques­tions pos­ted on Twit­ter and said, among oth­er things, that his re­turn to the U.S. was “not pos­sible” un­der cur­rent es­pi­on­age law, spe­cific­ally the Whis­tleblower Pro­tec­tion Act. Snowden ad­ded that he be­lieved he had “no chance” of earn­ing a fair tri­al.

In re­sponse, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er told MS­N­BC’s Ari Mel­ber that he would “en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions” if Snowden’s at­tor­neys ap­proached him with in­tent for a plea deal. But Hold­er, re­main­ing con­sist­ent with the ad­min­is­tra­tion, ruled off any pos­sib­il­ity of clem­ency.

Earli­er in the week, Snowden dis­missed al­leg­a­tions, lobbed by House In­tel­li­gence Chair­man Mike Ro­gers and oth­ers that he was work­ing for Rus­sia as a spy, as “ab­surd.”

Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin told This Week‘s George Stephan­o­poulos that Snowden could at­tend the Olympic Games in So­chi next month, adding that he has a “right to travel freely across the coun­try” like any­one else.