2 Jul 2013

Snowden not seeking asylum - Russia

9:12 pm on 2 July 2013

Fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden has withdrawn his request for asylum in Russia, according to a Kremlin spokesperson.

The former CIA analyst is wanted on charges in the US after leaking details of its surveillance programme Prism and is believed to have been in the transit area of a Moscow airport since arriving from Hong Kong on 23 June.

Mr Snowden has sent asylum requests to 21 countries, according to a statement published by Wikileaks. They include China, France, Ireland and Venezuela.

Russia and Norway confirmed they had received applications, but Russia later said that Mr Snowden withdrew it after the Kremlin set conditions, the BBC reports.

Mr Snowden accuses US President Barack Obama of putting pressure on the countries to which he has applied.

Mr Obama said American and Russian law enforcement officials are working to get Mr Snowden back to the US.

"We don't have an extradition treaty with Russia, On the other hand, Mr Snowden, we understand, has travelled there without a valid passport, without legal papers and we are hopeful that the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel and the normal interactions that law enforcement have."

The Wikileaks press release said that most of the asylum requests were handed to the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday for delivery to the relevant embassies in Moscow. The requests were submitted by Sarah Harrison, a British member of the Wikileaks legal team acting as Mr Snowden's representative.

But a Kremlin spokesperson later said that Edward Snowden withdrew the application to Russia because Moscow had said he should give up "anti-American activity".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that while Moscow "never hands over anybody anywhere", Mr Snowden could only stay on condition that he stopped damaging Russia's "American partners" with his leaks.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski said that his country had received an application but that he would not be recommending granting the request. Norway's foreign ministry later said its embassy in Moscow had received an application by fax which was "probably from him".

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is visiting Moscow, said Caracas had not yet received an asylum application but that he had "done something very important for humanity" and "deserved the world's protection".

Edward Snowden had previously submitted an application to Ecuador, whose embassy in London is sheltering Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and to Iceland.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said on Monday that his country would process Mr Snowden's asylum request if he managed to enter an Ecuadorean embassy.

Bugging claims

The United States continues to face fallout over claims published at the weekend of alleged spying by American security services on the embassies and missions of its European Union allies, including France, Italy and Greece.

French President Francois Hollande indicated that a major US-EU trade deal - to be negotiated next week - was under threat unless the US could give a guarantee that its surveillance of the EU had ended.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "bugging friends is unacceptable... We are no longer in the Cold War."

Responding to the claims, US President Barack Obama said that all nations with intelligence services tried to understand what other nations were thinking, but that if he wanted to know what a European leader was thinking, he would call that person himself.