Fugitive US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has left the Moscow airport, where he had been holed up for over a month, after being granted one year’s asylum in Russia.
“Snowden has left Sheremetyevo airport. He has just been given a certificate that he has been awarded temporary asylum in Russia for one year,” said his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena on Thursday.
An airport spokesperson added that he had left within the last two hours. A source told the Interfax news agency he had now crossed the Russian border for the first time.
Kucherena said Snowden had left in a normal taxi on his own. The lawyer added that Snowden’s new place of residence would be kept secret for security reasons. “His location is not being made public for security reasons since he is the most pursued man on the planet. He himself will decide where he will go,” said Kucheren.
Snowden, 30, is wanted on felony charges by the United States after leaking details of vast US surveillance programmes, but Russia has refused to extradite him. Interviewed by Rossiya 24 television, Kucherena held up a scanned copy of Snowden’s certificate granting him a year’s temporary asylum in Russia. “He has gone to a safe place. I hope you will be understanding about this information,” he said.
Snowden has been staying in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow since he flew in from Hong Kong on June 23 and has never formally crossed the Russian border. His awarding of asylum status in Russia came two days after US soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage on Tuesday for leaking US secrets to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
“Edward Snowden has successfully acquired refugee status in Russia and will shortly leave the airport,” WikiLeaks, which has supported Snowden, said on Twitter. It said he was still “under the care” of WikiLeaks British staffer Sarah Harrison.