Edward Snowden has been granted a three-year residence permit in Russia, his lawyer announced Thursday.
Anatoly G. Kucherena told a news conference that Snowden had not been given asylum in Russia, but rather had been granted permission to live there until 2017. His new status also includes the right to leave Russia for up to three months, Mr. Kucherena said.
Snowden had originally planned to head to Latin America for asylum. Anger in Germany at American surveillance has also prompted some discussion there about whether Snowden should be allowed to live there. But he has so far avoided setting foot outside Russia lest the United States find a way to arrest him.
Kucherena dismissed a letter from the US Prosecutor General’s office to the Russian Ministry of Justice as insufficient grounds for handing Snowden over to the US. “There has been no request which complies with international law,” the lawyer said.
If Edward Snowden does one day travel back to the US, it’s not going to be extradition, his lawyer assured. “No extradition is possible under Russian law,” he said. “He has not committed any crime. He faces no charges in Russia.”
Without going into too many details, Kucherena said that Snowden was living on a salary earned from an unspecified job in the information technology field, and on donations into an open fund from individuals and nongovernmental organizations. The lawyer said that his client was learning to speak Russian, and that he would be eligible to become a citizen after living here for five years, counted from his first residence permit granted in 2013.
Asked about Snowden’s living arrangements in Moscow, Kucherena said that he could not comment in detail but indicated that Snowden was not on the Russian government dole. “The government cannot provide him with housing, despite the fact that he was granted a residence permit,” Kucherena said. “He leads a rather modest lifestyle.”
Kucherena also denied that Snowden was protected by government bodyguards, saying that there would be all manner of “bureaucratic delays” for such protection to be organized. But Snowden did live with private security, a priority given hostile American government statements about him, the lawyer said.
American attorney Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, says he’s grateful for the reprieve.
“Mr. Snowden is grateful for the stability of a three-year residency in Russia, which opens up the possibility for travel and continuing his reform efforts,” says Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project.
Snowden apparently decided to mark a year of asylum in Russia by making a public appearance. He attended the Tsar’s Bride opera in Moscow’s historic Bolshoi Theatre. Snowden slipped in almost unnoticed, reporters hardly able to recognize him without his signature look glasses. He sat in one of the theatre’s boxes, admiring Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera that recounts a tragic love story during the time of Ivan the Terrible’s reign in Russia.
Courage, which runs Edward Snowden’s official defence fund and his associated asylum campaign, welcomed today’s announcement.
Courage’s Acting Director Sarah Harrison, who facilitated Edward Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong and spent four months in Russia, including 40 days in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, securing his initial asylum said:
I’m relieved to hear that Edward Snowden will continue to be protected, keeping him safe from American prosecution. Courage congratulates the Russian people and the dedicated international team of lawyers, campaigners and supporters who have made this happen. Although the US government has lost this round, let us not forget the stakes – last year whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a US military prison and the Grand Jury against both WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden continues. By hosting Edward Snowden’s defence fund and keeping the public aware of his case, Courage has helped keep Edward Snowden safe for the past year, but his fund will need continued public support to ensure he stays protected for years to come.