NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is allowed to enter the country’s territory, a source close to the matter told Itar-Tass.
The whistleblower has been granted temporary political asylum in Russia, Snowden’s legal representative Anatoly Kucherena said, with his words later confirmed by Russia’s Federal Migration service.
“I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone,” he added.
Kucherena showed a photocopy of the document to the press. According to it, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014. His asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
With his newly-awarded legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities, even if Washington files an official request. He can now be transported to the United States only if he agrees to go voluntarily.
Snowden departed at around 15.30 Moscow time (11.30 GMT), airport sources said. His departure came some 30 minutes before his new refugee status was officially announced.
His present location has not been made public nor will it be disclosed, Kucherena said.
Since June 23, the former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, has been staying in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he came from Hong Kong as a transit passenger. In the middle of July he requested for a temporary political asylum in Russia.
Snowden is accused of revealing details about the U.S. surveillance services. He was charged with unauthorized communication of national defense information and providing U.S. classified intelligence to an unauthorized person under the 1917 Espionage Act. Moreover, he is accused of government property theft. Snowden will face up to 10 years in prison under every article. RT/Itar-Tass