Moscow, July 16: Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, a pro-Kremlin lawyer said today, after President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of "trapping" him in the country.
Snowden, wanted by the United States for revealing sensational details of its vast spying operations, is now spending a fourth week in the transit lounge at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport without crossing the Russian border.
"The application has been filed with the Russian authorities" through the Federal Migration Service (FMS), prominent lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who has been in contact with Snowden, told AFP.
"I have just left him," he said after meeting the fugitive earlier today. Federal Migration Service officials declined to comment immediately.
Kremlin-friendly lawyer Kucherena participated in Snowden's meeting with rights activists and pro-Kremlin lawmakers at Sheremetyevo last week and said Snowden had contacted him for consultations after the get-together.
"He is actively consulting with me," Kucherena said earlier today. "After the meeting we've been in frequent touch." Snowden flew into Russia from Hong Kong on June 23 and has since been marooned in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo. He was checked in for an Aeroflot flight to Cuba on June 24 but never boarded the plane. Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin said Snowden would leave Russia "as soon as he can," likening him to an unwanted gift.
But he accused Washington of "trapping" the American in Moscow, saying no country wanted to take in Snowden due to US pressure.
Kucherena said he was helping Snowden negotiate the complexities of Russian legislation and the difference between the status of refugee, political asylum and temporary asylum. "Before our consultations he did not have an understanding of those issues," the lawyer said.
"He needs to understand what suits him and what rights and obligations a certain status will generate."