Friday, August 02, 2013

Russia grants Snowden asylum:

                                                  Edward Snowden's new Russian passport:


Massive diplomatic snub
to Washington:

On August 1,  Edward Snowden was granted asylum in the Russian Federation and left the Sheremetyevo Airport transit zone.

Earlier, a source close to the matter reported this information explaining that the customs officers received the required papers from Federal Migration Service giving Snowden the right to stay in Russia. He’s “formally in Russia’s territory.” He added that the former CIA employee currently "has all the necessary documents to legally stay in Russia". He cannot be deported to the United States, even if the country makes an official request, a source in the Russian law enforcement agencies told news agencies on Thursday. “The granting of temporary asylum protects Snowden from deportation, because under the law a person, who was granted temporary asylum, cannot be returned against his will to the country, a citizen of which he is, or to the place of his permanent residence.”

His legal representative, Anatoly Kucherena said: “I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone.” Kucherena told state broadcaster Russia 24: “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location. Security is a very serious matter for him.”

Kucherena told Reuters: “He is the most wanted man on planet Earth. What do you think he is going to do?” “He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going.” “I put him in a taxi 15 to 20 minutes ago and gave him his certificate on getting refugee status in the Russian Federation. He can live wherever he wants in Russia. It’s his personal choice.” Mr Snowden left accompanied by WikiLeaks representative, Sarah Harrison. She twittered saying:

“We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle – now the war.”

He has been granted temporary asylum through at least through July 31, 2014. He can extend it annually on request. Doing so lets him stay in Russia permanently. He can make a new life there if he chooses. He’s got plenty of time to decide. He won’t be sent back to America. At 15:30 Moscow time (11:30 GMT), he left Sheremetyevo Airport transit zone.

In a formal statement issued to the Press Mr Snowden explained his actions:

“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” he said. "That is not something I am willing to support or live under. I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy, and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity. I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong".

"I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act. There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich. The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things. And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse".
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special representative for human rights and the rule of law, said that when pressing for the return of Snowden, who was stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, the United States should not claim that Russia is under any obligation to do so:
“In any situation of international significance, we remain committed to the fulfillment of corresponding international obligations,” the Russian diplomat said. “When obligations exist, we fulfil them. But they should not be invented in cases where they do not exist,” he said.
Washington has repeatedly called on Moscow to reject Snowden’s request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft. However, Dolgov said Russia has not yet received a formal US request to extradite Snowden. US officials have requested Russia to return Snowden, arguing that although the two states have no formal extradition treaty, Washington has allegedly returned a number of Russians following requests from Moscow. Dolgov said the United States had failed to provide Russia with a list of those individuals, adding that the terms “extradition” and “deportation” were not interchangeable and should not be confused. “As far as I know, there have been no cases [of extradition] from US territory. Although people are indeed being deported, it’s not because of Russia’s demands, but because they have violated US law,” the Russian diplomat said.

Since nothing done by the Kremlin is uncalculated, this decision to resist Washington's pressure has to have been decided at top level, meaning President Vladimir Putin himself. Putin  said  previously that US intelligence fugitive  Edward Snowden was staying in the transit area of a Moscow airport because Washington had “blocked” him there by intimidating countries that had been ready to grant him asylum. “He arrived on our territory without an invitation. He wasn’t flying to us. He was on a transit flight to other countries,” Putin said in St. Petersburg, adding that the United States had “intimidated other countries, so that nobody wants him.” “That’s how they blocked him on our territory,” Putin said. Putin added that Russia would not extradite Snowden to the United States, where he could face the death penalty. But the Kremlin has also tried to keep its distance from the case, emphasising that it is a human rights issue.

WASHINGTON immediately criticised the Russian decision and hinted that it could cancel a planned bilateral summit between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at next month's G20 Summit in St Petersburg.  “We have a wide range of interests with the Russians, and we are evaluating the utility of a summit,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing on Thursday in reference to the two leaders’ planned meeting next month, adding that the United States is “extremely disappointed” that Russia has given refuge to Snowden.
Carney declined to discuss if or how Washington might respond in the aftermath of Snowden’s asylum and said that while the White House is examining the value of the scheduled Obama-Putin summit, he did not have any changes in the US president’s schedule to announce. Obama plans to travel to Russia next month for the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, a trip which includes the scheduled bilateral meeting with Putin in Moscow.
Carney indicated that US authorities would continue to press Russia for help in bringing Snowden into the custody of the Americans. “We will obviously be in contact with Russian authorities expressing our extreme disappointment in this decision and making the case clearly that there is absolute legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States” Carney told reporters. Both Carney and US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that Russia did not notify the United States in advance of its decision to grant asylum to Snowden
Prominent US politicians, meanwhile, expressed outrage over Russia’s approval of Snowden’s asylum request, saying it deals a significant blow to bilateral relations. US Sen. John McCain, a consistent  critic of the Obama administration and  called the move “a slap in the face of all Americans.”  “Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia,” McCain said in a statement. “We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.”
McCain called on the Obama administration to respond in part by expanding the blacklist of Russian officials sanctioned under the controversial Magnitsky Act and extending membership in the North Atlanta Treaty Organization (NATO) to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, whose ambitions to join the military alliance have angered Moscow in recent years. Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, called Snowden’s asylum “a setback to US-Russian relations” despite being only granted for a period of one year. Snowden “is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia,” Menendez said in a statement.
Sen. Tom Coburn said in a television interview with MSNBC on Thursday that Snowden’s asylum “probably hurts the relationship” between Russia and the United States and suggested Russian intelligence had exploited the former NSA contractor’s knowledge of US intelligence programs – a claim both Snowden and Russian officials have denied. “He’s undoubtedly in my mind a traitor to our country and probably most of what he knows, the Russians already know. … It’s a gold mine for them,” Coburn said.
Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that Snowden’s asylum “is not important enough to affect political relations” between the United States and Russia, adding that Moscow was interested in the development of ties with Washington “in all areas".
The outrage of the US Senate rabble rousers notwithstanding, the Russian decision will be welcomed by supporters of Mr Snowden and regard it as a significant defeat for the US National Surveillance State.

(see also Blagaroon 2; Bradley Manning trial ends;

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