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Edward Snowden’s bid for asylum unclear

Russia says NSA leaker has not made a request

MOSCOW — Senior Kremlin officials said Saturday that Russia’s Federal Migration Service had not yet received a formal appeal for asylum from Edward J. Snowden, and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, insisted that the government had had no contact with him.

It was curious statement, given the government’s clear role in arranging a meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on Friday between Snowden, lawyers, and human rights advocates.

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At the meeting, Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who is on the run from US authorities and criminal charges of disclosing classified information, told the lawyers and rights advocates that he was requesting shelter in Russia because the United States and its allies were illegally preventing him from traveling to Latin America, where three countries have expressed a willingness to take him in.

The rhetorical maneuvering seems to signal that Russia’s position vis-à-vis Snowden has been complicated further by his now publicly-professed desire to stay here.

Although President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden must stop harming US interests, the Obama administration has made clear that it believes US interests are being harmed as long as Snowden is on the loose.

Snowden on Friday appealed to the human rights advocates to intervene on his behalf with the Russian government.

It is unclear how influential they can be given that at least two of the groups represented — Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — have had their Moscow offices raided by the authorities in recent months, and some of their local representatives have faced personal threats apparently aimed at curtailing their work.

“I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted,” Snowden said Friday, according to a text released by WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group.

“I will be submitting my request to Russia today,” Snowden said.

On Saturday, however, Russia’s migration service chief, Konstantin Romodanovsky, told Interfax news agency that no request had been received. “If we receive an application, it will be considered,” he said.

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