Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Vladimir Isachenkov / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
In this image taken form Russia24 TV channel, Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena shows a temporary document to allow Edward Snowden cross the border into Russia.
This image taken from Russia24 TV channel shows the document authorizing temporary asylum for Edward Snowden.
"He has got friends, including on Russian territory, American friends, who would be able to ensure his safety for the time being," Kucherena said.
He refused to say whether Snowden would stay in Moscow or move to stay elsewhere in Russia, saying the fugitive would discuss the issue with his family.
Kucherena argued that Russia did the right thing by offering shelter to Snowden despite U.S. pressure. "Russia has fulfilled a humanitarian mission with regard to the U.S. citizen who has found himself in a difficult situation," he said, voicing hope that the U.S. wouldn't try to slam Russia with sanctions.
Putin's foreign affairs aide, Yuri Ushakov, sought Thursday to downplay the impact on relations between the two countries.
"This issue isn't significant enough to have an impact on political relations," he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
He said that the Kremlin hasn't heard any signal from Washington that Obama could cancel his visit to Moscow ahead of next month's G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.
But Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Russian decision to grant asylum to Snowden would hurt ties.
"Edward Snowden is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia," the Democratic lawmaker said. "Regardless of the fact that Russia is granting asylum for one year, this action is a setback to U.S.-Russia relations. Edward Snowden will potentially do great damage to U.S. national security interests and the information he is leaking could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country."
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran of Russia's human rights movement and head of the respected Moscow Helsinki Group, welcomed the news on asylum for Snowden, but added that his quest for freedom of information has landed him in a country that has little respect for that and other freedoms.
"Having fought for the freedom and rights, Snowden has ended up in a country that cracks down on them," Alexeyeva said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch sounded a similar note. "He cannot but be aware of the unprecedented crackdown on human rights that the government has unleashed in the past 15 months," Denber said in an e-mailed comment.
Putin has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent since his inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012, with the Kremlin-controlled parliament stamping a series of laws that introduced heavy fines for participants in unsanctioned protests, imposed new tough restrictions on non-government organizations.
A law passed in June bans imposes hefty fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies, a move that has prompted gays in the U.S. and elsewhere to call for boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.