More than a month after his arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport, Edward Snowden was handed a stack of clean shirts and a copy of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment by his Russian lawyer. However, papers allowing him to enter Russia while his request for asylum is being considered are still not ready, said the lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena.
It was widely expected that Mr Kucherena’s meeting with Mr Snowden would involve the handover of the papers which would allow the former NSA contractor to leave the airport and enter Russia. But Mr Kucherena said it was “misinformation” that the temporary clearance to leave the airport had been issued already. Given that a week ago he promised that the documents would indeed be ready, it is possible that high-level decisions are still being taken on what to do with Mr Snowden.
The whistleblower landed in Moscow on 23 June from Hong Kong and wanted to continue to Latin America, but was grounded at Sheremetevo after US authorities revoked his passport.
“I think the situation will be resolved shortly, but at this point I’m not ready to give you a specific date because I want to avoid confusion as much as possible,” said Mr Kucherena, who took a large brown bag with him to the meeting inside the transit zone at Sheremetevo.
He said he had given Mr Snowden several books, including novels by Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov, as well as a history of Russia. “I also gave him several shirts as he has been wearing the same clothes for a month,” said the lawyer.
President Vladimir Putin has said that Mr Snowden could be granted asylum in Russia if he promises to stop activities harmful to the US, but the White House has repeatedly demanded that Russia extraditehim to face charges at home. Mr Putin said this will “never” happen.
At a meeting with human rights activists a fortnight ago, Mr Snowden said he wanted “temporary asylum” in Russia while he makes plans to continue to another country.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have all said they would look favourably upon an asylum request. However, Mr Kucherena has said that Mr Snowden may now plan to settle in Russia and find work, and the whistleblower has already learnt some of the language of his potential new host country.
“Several days ago I gave him a textbook in Russian and today he said a few words to me in Russian,” Mr Kucherena said.