Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday after Russia granted him refugee status, ending more than a month in limbo in the transit area during which he had his application for asylum turned down by several countries, while some countries showed readiness to receive him.
A lawyer who has been assisting Snowden said the young American, who is wanted in the U.S. for leaking details of secret government intelligence programmes, had left the airport for a secure location which would remain secret.
“Edward Snowden has successfully acquired refugee status in Russia,” the anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks, which is also assisting Snowden, confirmed on Twitter.
His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told state television: “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location because Security is a very serious matter for him.”
30-year-old Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 after leaking serious US spy documents which made his country declare him wanted for espionage.
He had hoped to fly to Latin America, where three countries have offered to give him shelter, but was concerned that the U.S. would prevent him from reaching his destination.
Snowden’s case has caused new strains in relations between Russia and the U.S. which wants him extradited to face espionage charges.