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Continued: Snowden emerges from hiding in Moscow airport, says he wants asylum in Russia

  • Article by: VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 12, 2013 - 4:30 PM

He told meeting participants that he already has accomplished what he intended and thus sees no problem in agreeing to Putin's condition that he stop leaking.

"He said he hasn't damaged (U.S. interests) in the past, that the media frenzy wasn't his fault and that he has no intention to damage the U.S. government interests as he considers himself an American patriot," Nikonov told reporters.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who closely communicated with Snowden, has suggested the media organizations involved already had all the material Snowden wanted to make public. Greenwald indicated it was up to the newspapers what to publish and when.

Nikonov said that he expects the Kremlin to offer asylum to Snowden, and speakers of both houses of the Russian parliament, Sergei Naryshkin and Valentina Matviyenko, also quickly spoke in support of his plea.

While granting asylum to Snowden would further damage U.S.-Russian ties already strained by U.S. criticism of Putin's crackdown on the country's opposition and differences over Syria, such a move could allow Putin to portray Russia as a principled defender of human rights and openness, even though it allows its security agencies to monitor the Internet.

Some said the Kremlin may not be too concerned about upsetting Washington because relations are already at a freezing point.

"We may expect a new surge of anti-Russian campaigning in the U.S., but such surges have occurred regularly even without Snowden," said Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected chief of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament. "So there will be no dramatic change in the situation."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia has yet to receive a new asylum request from Snowden and that Putin would continue to demand that Snowden stop leaking information.

It was unclear how long a decision could take. Anatoly Kucherena, a member of a Kremlin advisory body who attended the meeting, said it could take two to three weeks. But Putin's imprimatur could accelerate the process, as it did when French actor Gerard Depardieu was granted Russian citizenship in a matter of a few days.

Snowden got support from the top U.N. human rights official who urged nations to offer him the same international rights that all asylum seekers are due.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said all nations must "respect the internationally guaranteed right to seek asylum" and also are obliged to make any such determination "in accordance with their international legal obligations."

Pillay said in a statement that nations must respect the right to privacy and protect individuals like Snowden who reveal alleged large-scale surveillance programs.

She said the case raises concerns that surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy may infringe on basic rights such as freedom of expression.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was "disappointed'" that Russia helped to facilitate what she termed a "propaganda platform" for Snowden.

"We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport's transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government's declarations of Russia's neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden," Psaki said at a briefing.

She added that "we still believe that Russia has the opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate his return to the United States."

Although Friday's meeting left Snowden's fate still uncertain, it at least confirmed where he was; speculation had swirled that he had been spirited out of the country.

"We found for ourselves that he is real, he's no phantom," said Genry Reznik, a lawyer who participated in the meeting.

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