MOSCOW -- The latest bid by fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to leave a Moscow airport has run into bureaucratic hurdles, his Russian lawyer said Wednesday.
Russian media reported that Snowden would be allowed to leave the transit zone where he has been holed up for more than a month following a government decision to consider his request for temporary asylum. But he was turned back at passport control because he did not have all the paperwork he needed, a Russian immigration official told The Times.
“This situation is not standard for Russia. We have come across some bureaucracy,” Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters after meeting with his client in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo-2 International Airport. “His documents are still being reviewed. Let’s wait for some time and hope that the question will be resolved in the next few days.”
The Russian Federal Migration Service issued a certificate Wednesday, in effect stating that the agency was reviewing the application Snowden submitted last week seeking temporary shelter, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
The document reportedly allows him to leave the airport transit zone where he arrived June 23 with a revoked U.S. passport, which did not allow him to legally enter Russia or board a flight elsewhere.
The Federal Migration Service would not officially confirm or deny the reports. “We don’t have this information yet,” agency spokeswoman Svetlana Gordeyeva said.
Earlier this week, Kucherena told the Times that the certificate would allow Snowden to cross the Russian border and finally leave the airport transit zone.
“Snowden started passing through passport control, but some important documents were lacking, and he had to stay in the transit zone for at least another day,” said a Federal Migration Service official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Snowden doesn’t have a valid passport, and he needs a whole set of different papers to cross the border into Russia. ”
He said Snowden had to be fingerprinted and fill in a new form.
In the last two weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said more than once that Russia will not extradite Snowden to the United States but has also expressed hope that the former NSA contractor would leave Russia for some other country soon.
It was unclear where Snowden, 30, would stay once he leaves his airport limbo. His lawyer said only that Snowden plans to stay in Russia for some time.
“He wants to study Russian culture,” Kucherena said in an interview with Rossiya-24, a Russian television news network. “But his security remains his priority.”
Several Russian human rights groups have offered to assist Snowden in his efforts to evade a U.S. extradition warrant seeking his return to face espionage and theft charges.
Snowden told Kucherena that he is not a rich man but still has some money. Kucherena said he brought Snowden a new pair of jeans, some T-shirts and a book: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”