Edward Snowden 'broadens asylum requests' - Wikileaks

Edward Snowden. File photo Edward Snowden is believed to be staying at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has sent asylum requests to 21 countries, according to a statement published by Wikileaks.

They include China, France, Ireland and Venezuela. But eight European countries said the requests were invalid.

And Russia said Mr Snowden later withdrew the application to Moscow as the Kremlin had set conditions.

He accuses US President Barack Obama of putting pressure on the countries to which he has applied.

The former intelligence systems analyst, who is holed up at Moscow airport, is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets.

Analysis

Vladimir Putin's warning to Mr Snowden that he should stop "harming our American partners" is indicative of a significant shifting of gear. Russia now has ownership of the Snowden affair. What happens to Mr Snowden will depend upon Russia's calculations and what serves Russia's interests.

The authorities in Moscow could have moved Mr Snowden on quickly, joining the diplomatic game of pass-the-parcel that began in Hong Kong. But the longer the errant US intelligence analyst stays in limbo at the Moscow airport, so the more Russia has become a central actor in this drama.

Russia must balance a range of factors in seeking to determine Mr Snowden's fate - the risk of a serious rift with Washington and Russia's own standing as an international actor that upholds the legal order must be set against the strong vein of sympathy for Mr Snowden amongst Russian public opinion.

US Secretary of State John Kerry raised Mr Snowden's case in talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Brunei.

But Mr Kerry said the two did not discuss the matter substantively.

"I did raise the issue of Mr Snowden but that is not his portfolio, nor is it mine, but it is being handled within the justice department," he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

'Not an agent'

The Wikileaks press release said that most of the asylum requests - including to Russia itself - were handed to the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday for delivery to the relevant embassies in Moscow.

The requests were submitted by Sarah Harrison, a British member of the Wikileaks legal team acting as Mr Snowden's representative, the statement added.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said Mr Snowden withdrew the application to Russia because Moscow had said he should give up "anti-American activity".

"After learning of Russia's position yesterday, voiced by President Putin ... he abandoned his intention [of staying] and his request to be able to stay in Russia," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that while Moscow "never hands over anybody anywhere", Mr Snowden could only stay on condition that he stopped damaging Russia's "American partners" with his leaks.

Mr Snowden has reportedly been in the transit area of Sheremetyevo since arriving there from Hong Kong on 23 June.

Mr Peskov confirmed he was still there and had not crossed into Russian territory, adding that the former analyst had never been a Russian agent and had never worked with its intelligence services.

Asylum requests to 21 countries

  • Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia (withdrawn), Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela

Norway, Poland, Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland said asylum requests could only be made on their soil.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is on a visit to Moscow, said Caracas had not yet received an asylum application from Mr Snowden but that he had "done something very important for humanity" and "deserved the world's protection".

"The world's conscience should react, the world youth should react, the decent people who want a peaceful world should react, everyone should react and find solidarity with this young man who has denounced and altered the world that they [the US] pretend to control."

Mr Snowden had previously submitted an application to Ecuador, whose embassy in London is sheltering Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and to Iceland.

Vladimir Putin: "He should cease his work aimed at damaging our American partners"

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Monday that his country would process Mr Snowden's asylum request if he managed to enter an Ecuadorean embassy.

However, if he can complete his asylum request on Russian territory , then "the situation can be processed and resolved there," President Correa added.

Details have also emerged of a letter from Mr Snowden to President Correa, thanking Ecuador for guaranteeing "my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong - I could never have risked travel without that".

'Stateless person'

Speaking in Tanzania on Monday, President Barack Obama said Moscow and Washington had held "high level discussions" about Mr Snowden, who he said had travelled to Moscow without valid documents.

Mr Snowden describes himself as "a stateless person", accusing the US government of stopping him from exercising the "basic right...to seek asylum".

"The president ordered his vice president to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions," he is quoted by Wikileaks as saying.

"This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."

The leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents has led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

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