Snowden's long layover in Moscow airport is over

Edward Snowden has reportedly been granted a temporary document to enter Russia, where his lawyer says he will remain for the foreseeable future.

Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP
Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena speaks to the media after visiting US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

As his lawyer predicted, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has reportedly been granted a temporary document that will enable him to leave the legal limbo of Sheremetyevo airport's transit zone and take up residence in Moscow or any other Russian city.

Russian media outlets cited unnamed official sources as saying the Federal Migration Service has issued a special pass that will enable Mr. Snowden to clear the airport's passport control. But it could still take several hours to process, news agencies report, and so for now he remains in the airport.

According to the Kremlin-funded, English-language TV network Russia Today (RT), Snowden's lawyer Anatoly Kucherena delivered the document to him in a large "brown paper bag," which contained all the paperwork for his release and possibly a fresh suit of clothes, on Wednesday afternoon. As the Associated Press reports, he also brought his client some reading material

[H]e told Russia's Rossiya-24 television that he has brought several books for Snowden to read, including one by Anton Chekhov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment."

The novel is about the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of a poor ex-student who kills a pawnbroker for her cash, and Kucherena said Snowden might find it interesting. But the lawyer added: "I'm not implying he's going through a similar mental anguish."

The certificate Snowden has received is a temporary pass, and Russian sources say it does not mean he will be granted permanent political asylum in Russia. But it does put an end to the ex-CIA employee's month-long airport ordeal, and also appears to foreclose any possibility that Russia might just send him packing into some jurisdiction where he could be turned over to the United States

Speaking to RT, Mr. Kucherena said he expects Snowden to remain in Russia for the foreseeable future.

"It’s hard for me to say what his [next] actions would be," Kucherena is quoted as saying by RT.

"We must understand that security is the number one issue in his case. I think the process of adaptation will take some time. It’s an understandable process as he doesn’t know the Russian language, our customs, and our laws.... He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And I think that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in," Kucherena said.  

Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week after his options for onward travel appeared to dry up amid a concerted US campaign to get him back.

Even President Vladimir Putin, who has described Snowden's presence in the airport as an unwanted diplomatic headache for Russia, acknowledged that US efforts had effectively bottled him up in Sheremetyevo, leaving Moscow with few options between extraditing him to the US – which it has steadfastly refused to do – and granting him some sort of temporary refuge.

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