Snowden Meets With Human Rights Activists in Renewed Effort for Russian Asylum
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RAY SUAREZ: The man who leaked word of major surveillance programs at the National Security Agency made a new bid today to break free of his international limbo.
Edward Snowden’s renewed request for asylum in Russia came nearly three weeks after he flew into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. He’s remained in a transit area there ever since.
Today, Snowden met with human rights activists and Russian politicians at the airport. A Russian news Web site showed video of the first time he had been seen since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
Tatiana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch was at the meeting.
TATIANA LOKSHINA, Human Rights Watch: Here cannot stay here indefinitely. There has to be some kind of a solution. And that’s what makes him ask Russian for an asylum.
ROBERT MOORE: The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks is assisting Snowden. Its Web site published a statement from him that said: “I didn’t seek to sell U.S. secrets. That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly. But it was the right thing to do, and I have no regrets.”
A Russian parliamentarian who met with Snowden reiterated the Kremlin’s stance first articulated last month by President Vladimir Putin.
VYACHESLAV NIKONOV, State Duma, Russian Federation: He already asked for political asylum in Russia, and the response was positive, on one condition, that he stops to hurt interests of our American partners, as Putin put it. So the ball is on his side of the field.
RAY SUAREZ: Vyacheslav Nikonov said Snowden agreed today to stop leaking information about American surveillance.
But, in Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney took a dim view of the Moscow meeting.
JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: Providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declaration of Russia’s neutrality and that they have — and that they have no control over his presence in the airport.
It’s also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests. But, having said that, you know, our position also remains that we don’t believe this should and we don’t want it to do harm to our important relationship with Russia.
RAY SUAREZ: Later, President Obama spoke to Putin in a phone call. A senior U.S. official said he raised concerns about Moscow’s handling of Snowden.
The U.S. has already revoked Snowden’s passport and filed a raft of charges against him. And today’s New York Times reported Washington is pressuring other countries, especially in Latin America, not to offer him refuge.
Snowden indicated today he would like to accept asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia, but he believes he cannot safely travel there.
Indeed, last week, the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales was denied passage through some European airspace after leaving Russia, and then grounded in Austria amid reports Snowden might have been on the flight.