NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is allowed to enter the country’s territory.
The whistleblower has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden’s legal representative Anatoly Kucherena said, with his words later confirmed by Russia’s Federal Migration service.
“I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone,” he added.
Kucherena showed a photocopy of the document to the press. According to it, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014. His asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
With his newly-awarded legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities, even if Washington files an official request. He can now be transported to the United States only if he agrees to go voluntarily.
A statement by the WikiLeaks has revealed the words Snowden said after he was handed the Russian asylum certificate.
"Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning,” the NSA leaker stressed. “I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”
Snowden departed at around 15.30 Moscow time (11.30 GMT), airport sources said. His departure came some 30 minutes before his new refugee status was officially announced.
Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, came to international prominence after leaking several classified documents detailing massive electronic surveillance by the US government and foreign allies who collaborated with them.
In July, Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia, a status that would allow him to live and work in the country for one year. Kucherena earlier said the fugitive whistleblower is considering securing permanent residency in Russia, where he will attempt to build a life.
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