The United States is waking up to hear the news that Edward Snowden, the fugitive NSA leaker, has reportedly left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and has entered Russia, according to Snowden’s lawyer.
The latest updates:
12:38 EST: Wikileaks has confirmed that the pictures we’ve posted below do in fact show Snowden leaving the airport. They have already released a lengthy statement in support of Russia’s actions.
One highlight – a Wikileaks advisor has been by Snowden’s side nearly the entire time, have been traveling together since Snodwen was in Hong Kong, and they left the airport together:
He left Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow with WikiLeaks staffer and legal advisor Sarah Harrison who has accompanied him during his 39 day stay in the transit zone and continues to do so. Ms Harrison has remained with Mr Snowden at all times to protect his safety and security, including during his exit from Hong Kong. They departed from the airport together in a taxi and are headed to a secure, confidential place.
Mr Snowden and Ms Harrison have been staying in the airport for almost six weeks, having landed on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong on the 23rd June. They had been booked on a connecting flight the following day. Mr Snowden intended to request asylum in Latin America. However, after Mr Snowden’s departure was made public, the United States government canceled his passport, which rendered onward travel impossible.
From within the transit zone of the airport, Mr Snowden and Ms Harrison spent a number of weeks prior to his Russian application assessing the options available to him to ensure his future safety. Without a passport and no immediate offers of the necessary safe passage, travel was impossible.
The statement then condemns the actions of the United States and the Obama administration with regards to how they have persecuted whistleblowers and in regards to the NSA programs that Snowden Bradley Manning and others helped expose.
11:48 EST: Sen. John McCain has issued a statement about Snowden’s 1-year asylum in Russia:
“Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.
“The first thing we should do is significantly expand the Magnitsky Act list to hold accountable the many human violators who are still enjoying a culture of impunity in Russia. We should push for the completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe, and move expeditiously on another round of NATO expansion, including the Republic of Georgia. We should challenge the political convictions and detentions of Russian dissidents such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny. And perhaps most importantly, we should speak out on behalf of the many people in Russia who increasingly are finding the courage to peacefully demand greater freedom, accountability, and rule of law in Russia.
“Today’s action by Putin’s Russia should finally strip away the illusions that many Americans have had about Russia the past few years. We have long needed to take a more realistic approach to our relations with Russia, and I hope today we finally start.”
10:04 EST: A Russian news outlet has published two photos – an enhanced version of the one we posted earlier, and a photo that appears to show Kucherena, but no Snowden, presumably because he’s been placed inside the car:
09:45 EST: Is this Edward Snowden? Just above the car, a man who looks like Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, is speaking to a man with similar colored hair as Snowden:
— Paul Owen (@PaulTOwen) August 1, 2013
09:00 EST: Kremlin Official Yuri Ushakov says that there is no evidence that US President Barack Obama will cancel his planned trip to Russia in September, and this incident will not cause friction between the two countries:
Our president has … expressed hope many times that this will not affect the character of our relations.
The Hill, which covers Washington politics, suggests that if one reads into statements from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, as well as other statements from the Obama administration, then it becomes clear that Obama will personally lobby for Snowden’s extradition in September.
However, as Russia has no extradition agreement with Russia, RT notes that with this new document in hand there is no legal way for Russia to extradite Snowden, unless Snowden would agree to travel voluntarily.
0852 EST: We now have confirmation that Snowden has been granted a one-year asylum, with the ability to renew that annually. RT reports:
Kucherena showed the document to the press. According to it, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014. His asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
Good questions from The Interpreter’s translator Catherine Fitzpatrick:
— CatherineFitzpatrick (@catfitz) August 1, 2013
There are plenty of reasons to suspect that the Russian government is directly aiding Snowden in his attempt to flee into Russia and avoid American law enforcement.
0830 EST: Reuters reports:
His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told state television: “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location … Security is a very serious matter for him.”
RT, Russian state news, also reports that, according to airport officials, Snowden left the airport at 15:30 Moscow Time (11:30 GMT, 7:30 EST), only 30 minutes after his official asylumstatus was announced by his lawyer.
In the picture ahead, Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, displays a document that, he says, is a copy of a new document given to Snowden that replaces his US Passport for identification purposes while he is staying inside Russia.
A closeup of the document:
— RT на русском (@RT_russian) August 1, 2013
It’s unclear what this document does for Snowden, or what the exact terms of his release are.
We’ll update readers as we learn more.