Edward Snowden applies for asylum in Russia
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia it has emerged, as President Vladimir Putin said the American could stay in Moscow if he "stops inflicting harm on our American partners".
By Tom Parfitt, Moscow, Bruno Waterfield in Brussels and Damien McElroy
7:09PM BST 01 Jul 2013 TELEGRAPH
Mr Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, is currently thought to be in a closed area of the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after arriving there on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he had leaked details of widespread surveillance by US security services of American citizens’ emails and telephone calls.
The furore over his continuing revelations widened yesterday, with European states reacting angrily to claims that the US ran an extensive spying operation against the European Union and dozens of its allies. In retaliation, President Francois Hollande of France threatened to block negotiations on a $100 billion-a-year transatlantic free trade treaty.
With his initial bid to seek asylum in Ecuador apparently going nowhere, Mr Snowden has now sought refuge in Russia from charges in the US of treason and theft of government property.
Kim Shevchenko, the head of Sheremetyevo’s Russian consular section, situated in Terminal F, confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that he had received an application for asylum from Mr Snowden on Sunday evening.
He said that it had been delivered by hand by Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks employee, who according to the anti-secrecy organisation arrived from China with Mr Snowden.
“I received those documents and informed senior representatives of the ministry of foreign affairs. A courier from the ministry came within an hour and I handed over the packet of documents,” said Mr Shevchenko.
At a press conference in Moscow, Mr Putin said of Mr Snowden: “If he wants to go somewhere and someone will take him — please, go ahead. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: that he stops his work aimed at inflicting harm on our American partners, strange as that may sound coming from my lips.”
Mr Putin said that Mr Snowden was not a Russian agent but stressed that he would “never” be extradited to the US. “Russia never gives anybody up and doesn’t plan to in the future,” he said.
The ambiguous comments suggested the Kremlin was entering a bargaining process with Washington over the fugitive leaker’s fate.
They came shortly after a senior Russian security official announced that Mr Putin and President Barack Obama had ordered their security services to collaborate to find a solution to the Snowden affair.
Mr Obama confirmed the US had held “high level” discussions with Moscow over Mr Snowden. Mr Snowden’s claim to be a fighter for civil freedoms would be seriously eroded if he stays in Russia, where state security services are regularly accused of spying on and intimidating innocent citizens at the behest of political masters.
In Europe, Mr Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called the revelations “unacceptable” and the Germany foreign ministry called in the US ambassador to demand assurances that survelliance would be stopped.
“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,” Mr Hollande said. “We ask that this immediately stop. There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States.”
Germany also backed Mr Hollande’s threat to freeze trade talks launched last month at the G8 summit, stating that “mutual trust” was a necessary basis of negotiations.
“We aren’t in the Cold War anymore,” said Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman.
Mr Obama sought to defuse the growing row by promising to supply all the information requested by European allies regarding the spying allegations, which he said Washington was still evaluating.
But he added: “Every intelligence service, not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service, here’s one thing they’re going to be doing: they’re going to be trying to understand the world better.”
The EU commission ordered a sweep of its headquarters and overseas offices for the presence of listerning devices.