Russia has extended Edward Snowden’s residency permit, allowing the fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor to remain in the country for three more years, his lawyer said Thursday.
Snowden, who is wanted in the United States for leaking information about National Security Agency surveillance practices, was stranded in the transit lounge at a Moscow airport in June 2013 while trying to flee to Latin America. Russia eventually granted him a one-year temporary asylum permit that expired on Aug. 1.
Snowden asked the Russian authorities last month to allow him to stay and finally got an answer this week. “A decision about the application has been taken,” Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who advises Snowden, said on Thursday.
“Accordingly, from Aug. 1, 2014, Edward Snowden has received a residency permit in Russia for three years,” he added. Under the terms of the permit, Snowden can move around Russia and pay visits of up to three months to other countries, “depending how he plans his time,” Kucherena told reporters in Moscow.
The document carries a three-year extension option. However, Snowden had not been granted political asylum that would allow him to stay in Russia indefinitely.
Political asylum could only be granted by presidential decree and was a “completely different procedure,” Kucherena said. Russia’s decision to give refuge to Snowden strained relations with the United States.
Relations have been further strained by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for Ukrainian separatists. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, which retaliated Wednesday with a ban on certain agricultural and food products from the U.S. and Europe.
Although the United States has sought Snowden’s extradition, Kucherena said there were no legal grounds to return him. “He has not committed any crimes. There are no accusations against him in the Russian Federation,” the lawyer said.
A Justice Department spokesman called on Snowden to turn himself in.
“It remains our position that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him,” said the spokesman, Peter Carr. “If he does, he will be accorded full due process and protections.”
Snowden’s whereabouts in Russia have been kept secret and he has rarely been seen in public over the last year. Kucherena said his client has a job in information technology and is protected by a private security organization.
Gorst is a special correspondent. Marianne Levine in the Times’ Washington bureau contributed to this report.