Edwards Snowden lawyers reveal he could leave Moscow's transit zone within a week as GCHQ is cleared of using PRISM unlawfully

Russian lawyer says Snowden could leave soon whilst Parliamentary committee finds that reports GCHQ used a secret US programme to access internet providers were unfounded

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The Independent Online

A Russian lawyer reportedly said on Wednesday that former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden could leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport within a week.

Anatoly Kucherena, who is assisting Snowden with his request for temporary asylum in Russia, is believed to have said the NSA whistleblower would be able to leave the transit zone at Sheremetyevo, and indicated he expected him to stay in Russia for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees the work of the intelligence agencies, said it was satisfied that reports produced by GCHQ based on information supplied by the US had conformed with its statutory duties.

GCHQ, the UK's British intelligence agency, did not use the National Security Agency's PRISM programme in order to circumvent UK laws, a parliamentary committee has found.

In each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, an intercept warrant signed by a minister was already in place, it said.

The committee's report follows highly classified information leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Mr Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia.

“It has been alleged that GCHQ circumvented UK law by using the NSA's Prism programme to access the content of private communications. From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded,” the committee said.

The committee, chaired by former Conservative Minister Malcolm Rifkind, said it was satisfied that GCHQ was operating within proper bounds and that ministers had properly signed off all activity.

In a further twist, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that relations with America were more important than "the activities of the secret services".

Asked during a visit to the eastern Siberian town of Chita whether the affair would cast a shadow over a US-Russia summit due in September in Moscow, Putin told reporters on Wednesday: “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services.

“We warned Mr Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us."

Russia would take an independent decision when deciding on Snowden's fate, but maintaining relations with Washington was also a “national objective”, the president added.

Additional reporting by agencies