Lawyer: Snowden May Be Able to Leave Moscow Airport Within Days

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 17 2013 12:41 PM

Snowden's Nightmare Layover May Soon Be Over (but He'll Still Be Stuck in Russia)

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Police officers guard the entrances inside the terminal F of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, on July 12, 2013

Photo by Kirill Kudyavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Edward Snowden's long and not-exactly-planned layover in Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport—currently at three weeks and counting—may soon be over. The Russian lawyer who is helping the ex-NSA contractor with his application for temporary asylum in Russia says Snowden may be able to leave the airport in the next few days. The Wall Street Journal has the details translated from Russia's Interfax news agency:

Mr. Snowden filed for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday, saying he was being persecuted by the U.S. after leaking top government secrets and that he feared for his life. Anatoly Kucherenko, the Kremlin-connected lawyer who is helping Mr. Snowden with his application, said the process should move quickly.
"The question of granting him temporary shelter will not take more than one week," he was quoted as saying Wednesday. "I think he will be able to leave the transit zone in the next few days."
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That's a pretty positive outlook — especially considering the process for receiving refugee status in Russia usually involves several steps. As the Journal notes, in order to get a three-month document that would allow Snowden to leave the airport while his asylum application is reviewed, Snowden would first have to file a refugee application with Russia's Federal Migration Service, which would then have to decide to consider the request before anything else happens. As it turns out, bureaucratic red tape is a mess in Russia, too.

And, of course, even if Snowden is granted temporary asylum in Russia, it would appear to do little to solve his bigger problem: Finding a way to get to Latin America, where he hopes to find more permanent refuge.

It's only been a day since the NSA leaker filed the application for temporary shelter in Russia on the noteworthy condition that he stop leaking valuable U.S. secrets. But that could prove to be just a technicality, as ABC News noted yesterday: Snowden has "already said that he gave all of his classified information  — thousands of documents — to several journalists."

Jennifer Lai is an associate editor at Slate.

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