Russia faces US fury over Snowden asylum

Russia faces US fury over Snowden asylum

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia faces US fury over Snowden asylum

Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's new refugee documents granted by Russia is seen during a news conference in Moscow August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia on Friday faced fury from the United States after granting asylum to fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and allowing him to walk free from an airport transit zone where he was marooned for over five weeks.

The whereabouts of Snowden -- who is wanted by the United States after leaking details of vast US surveillance programmes -- are now a mystery with his lawyer refusing to disclose the location for security reasons. The White House said it was "extremely disappointed" by Moscow's decision to grant Snowden asylum, adding that it would now review the need for a planned summit between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin in September.

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Friday and took a taxi to a secret location. He now has temporary asylum in Russia for a year.

On Friday, Life News website published a photograph showing Snowden smiling broadly as he walked through the airport with a rucksack on his back and carrying another bag.

He was shown accompanied by his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena and a staff member of WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website, Sarah Harrison, as well as an unidentified dark-haired woman.
Snowden and Harrison had stayed in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow since flying in from Hong Kong on June 23.

Kucherena said Snowden would eventually emerge into public view and give media interviews but that the fugitive first required an "adaptation course" after so long in the transit zone.

"He has sorted out where he will live, everything is fine," Kucherena told the RIA Novosti news agency Friday, refusing to give further details.

WikiLeaks said in a statement Snowden is now in a "secure, confidential place".

Snowden thanked Russia and slammed the administration of US President Barack Obama for having "no respect" for international or domestic law.

"But in the end the law is winning," he said in the WikiLeaks statement.

Relations will not develop now

Russia's decision to award Snowden asylum status came two days after US soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage for passing US secrets to WikiLeaks.

The White House warned Russia's decision could prompt Obama to cancel a planned visit to Moscow for talks with Putin ahead of the Saint Petersburg G20 summit.

"We're extremely disappointed," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "We're evaluating the utility of a summit in light of this." "This move by the Russian government undermines a long-standing record of law enforcement cooperation," he added.

Obama himself declined to comment when pressed by reporters in an Oval Office briefing.