National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was given a document on Wednesday that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia, a state news agency said.
The American applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week after his attempts to leave the airport and fly out of Russia were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage.
Snowden, who revealed details of the NSA’s wide-ranging spying activities targeting data and phone communication, is believed to have been staying at the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since June 23, when he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted an unidentified security official as saying that Snowden was given the document Wednesday, allowing him to formally enter Russia.
Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer advising Snowden, also arrived at the airport Wednesday to meet the NSA leaker, but refused to comment before the meeting.
President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden can be granted asylum in Russia only if he stops leaking NSA secrets.
A spokeswoman for Russia’s Federal Migration Service told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it had no information about the status of Snowden’s application for asylum.
Granting Snowden asylum would add new tensions to U.S.-Russian relations already strained by Washington’s criticism of Russia’s pressure on opposition groups, Moscow’s suspicion of U.S. missile-defense plans in Europe, and Russia’s resistance to proposed sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
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