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Edward Snowden still stuck in airport. Would life in Russia be better? (+video)

Edward Snowden is expected to get papers Thursday to let him leave the Moscow airport. He might consider staying in Russia. That didn't work out so well for Soviet-era American defectors.

By Staff writer / July 24, 2013

This image shows Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's hopes of leaving the airport for the first time in a month were dashed on Wednesday when he failed to secure permission from Russia to leave.

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

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Washington

Fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden won’t be getting a taste of Russian life quite as quickly as he’d expected.

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After initial reports Wednesday that Mr. Snowden had received Russian government documents allowing him to leave Moscow’s airport – where he has been holed up for the past month – came the news that unexplained bureaucratic entanglements would keep the US citizen in the airport’s transit zone for at least another day.

The former spy agency contractor – wanted by the US for violating the Espionage Act by divulging the details of secret telephone and e-mail surveillance programs – is seeking temporary asylum status in Russia. Russian lawyers aiding Snowden had expected the government to issue Wednesday papers allowing Snowden to establish residence in Moscow while Russian authorities consider his asylum request. Officials say the asylum decision could take up to three months.

But whether at the airport or in Moscow, Snowden will remain an irritant in US-Russia relations – even though he seems unlikely to make public any more of the US government secrets he is thought to be carrying with him. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month set a cessation of Snowden’s leaking activities as a condition for him remaining in Russia.

If Snowden’s stay in Moscow stretches into the fall, he would be in the Russian capital at the same time President Obama is scheduled to visit Moscow for a meeting with Mr. Putin. Mr. Obama is set to attend a G20 summit in St. Petersburg Sept. 5-6, and had accepted the Russian leader’s invitation to add Moscow to his itinerary for a bilateral meeting.

But with Russia harboring Snowden, furious members of Congress are calling on Obama to demand a venue change for the G20 summit, to snub Putin’s invitation to a bilateral summit meeting – and even to keep the US out of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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