U.S. leaker Edward Snowden has papers allowing him to leave a Moscow airport and stay in Russia as his temporary asylum request is reviewed, Russian media said.
Snowden, who admitted leaking information about the National Security Agency’s massive Internet and cellphone surveillance program, produced documents to border officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he has been holed up in the airport’s transit zone since he arrived in Moscow June 23.
Snowden received the documents from human rights advocate and lawyer Anatoly Kucherena but there has been no official confirmation.
Kucherena arrived at the Sheremetyevo airport and went to the transit zone through the service entrance.
Snowden, who applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week, is wanted in the United States for leaking information about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs.
He faces espionage charges and the United States has warned countries that have said they would consider granting Snowden asylum not to accept him.
A source said Snowden and Kucherena talked in the transit zone.
“They talked and Mr. Kucherena handed Snowden a package with documents, among which was the certificate that now allows him to leave the transit zone and go through Russian customs,” the source said.
Wednesday is the deadline for the review of documents Snowden submitted last week to Russia’s Federal Migration Service.
Russian immigration authorities took a week to conduct an initial assessment of an asylum request before proceeding with the request and issuing Snowden provisional documents.
Action on an asylum request can take up to three months in Russia. If granted, temporary asylum would allow Snowden to remain in Russia for one year and is subject to annual renewal. If rejected, Snowden can appeal the decision in court.
Kucherena had said Snowden could decide to become a permanent resident in Russia rather than trying to seek asylum elsewhere.
“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in.”
The Obama administration has been pressing Russia to detain Snowden and return him to Washington.