Few paths left for Snowden as more countries rebuff him

Newspapers with accounts of ex-NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden’s saga were distributed in Moscow Tuesday.
Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Newspapers with accounts of ex-NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden’s saga were distributed in Moscow Tuesday.

MOSCOW — Asylum options appeared to narrow further Tuesday for Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor on the run from US authorities, as at least nine countries reacted unfavorably to his requests for sanctuary and the Kremlin said he had withdrawn his application to Russia.

Only Venezuela and Bolivia appeared to offer him a hint of hope for a way out of his limbo inside the international airport transit lounge at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, where he has been ensconced out of public view for nine days.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, visiting Russia, said that while he had not received an application from Snowden and would not use his plane to ferry Snowden home with him, he held out the possibility that Venezuela might ultimately agree to shelter Snowden.


Speaking to legislators and reporters at the Russian Parliament, Maduro said Snowden deserved protection under international law.

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“He did not kill anyone, and he did not plant a bomb,” Maduro said, according to Russian news services. “He only said a big truth to prevent wars.”

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, signaled that Snowden would be welcome there as well.

But Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, and Spain said that requests for asylum must be made in person on their territories and therefore Snowden had not properly submitted an application. India and Brazil said they had rejected Snowden’s request outright. Poland said that it had received an application that was not properly submitted, but that it would have been rejected in any event.

Officials in Italy, which also received an asylum application, said they were evaluating it. But there was little expectation that Italy would grant Snow-den’s request.


Snowden, 30, has been charged in the United States with violations of espionage laws for leaking classified information about the vast global surveillance operations of US intelligence agencies. WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group that has been assisting Snowden, has described him as a whistleblower who exposed US abuses of privacy. The Obama administration has described him as a hacker who should be extradited and prosecuted.

There had been speculation that President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Maduro would negotiate terms for Snowden to leave the Sheremetyevo transit area, his home since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.

He had apparently intended to board a connecting flight headed for Latin America. In the interim, the United States announced that his US passport had been revoked, leaving him in a geopolitical limbo, stripped of any valid travel document and unable to leave the transit zone.

Russia has warm ties with Venezuela, a major arms customer and energy partner, which sees the alliance as a way of countering the United States’ influence in Latin America.

The newspaper Izvestia speculated Monday that Maduro could spirit Snowden away on his presidential plane when he leaves Russia on Tuesday. Putin responded blankly to that theory.


“As to the possible departure of Mr. Snowden with some official delegation,” he said, “I know nothing.”

A spokesman for Putin, Dmitri S. Peskov, reiterated that Russia had no intention of extraditing Snowden to the United States, where the death penalty is a possibility for him if he is convicted.