US security whistleblower Edward Snowden has asked for temporary asylum in Russia, according to reports.
Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency quoted lawyer Anatoly Kucherena as saying that Snowden submitted the asylum request to Russia’s Federal Migration Service. The service had no immediate comment.
The lawyer said Snowden made the move after a meeting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Snowden has been stuck in Sheremetyevo’s transit zone since he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23.
The former National Security Agency worker said last week at a meeting with Russian rights activists and public figures that he would seek at least temporary refuge in Russia until he could fly to one of the Latin American nations that have offered him asylum.
Mr Kucherena, a member of the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body, said Russian law contains no specific time frame for considering an asylum request.
Snowden’s stay in Russia has strained already chilly relations between Moscow and Washington. Granting him asylum would further aggravate tensions with the US less than two months before president Vladimir Putin and president Barack Obama meet in Moscow and again at the G20 summit in St Petersburg.
Mr Putin yesterday described Snowden’s arrival as an unwelcome present foisted on Russia by the United States. He said Snowden flew to Moscow intending only to travel on to another country, but the US intimidated other countries into refusing to accept him, effectively blocking the fugitive from flying further.
Snowden previously sought Russian asylum, which Mr Putin said would be granted only if he agreed not to leak more information. Snowden then withdrew the bid, the Kremlin said.
During Friday’s meeting in Sheremetyevo’s transit zone, Snowden argued that he had not hurt US interests in the past and has no intention of doing that.
Mr Putin did not say if that would be sufficient grounds for asylum, adding that Snowden apparently did not want to stay in Russia permanently.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered Snowden asylum, but getting there from Moscow without passing through US air space or that of Washington’s allies would be difficult. The US has annulled his passport.