MOSCOW: US fugitive Edward Snowden has abandoned his request for political asylum in Russia after learning he would have to stop leaking intelligence reports, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, as the American awaited asylum decisions from 20 other countries.
Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, has accused Washington of pressuring foreign leaders to refuse him refuge as he tries to evade justice for revealing a vast US spying program that has strained ties with European allies.
“These are the old, bad tools of political aggression,” Snowden said in a statement published on Monday by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website. “Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
WikiLeaks, which has been helping Snowden, said the 30-year-old had sent asylum re-quests to Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
Russia, Norway, Austria and Poland were among the first to confirm they had received the applications. Warsaw immediately rejected the request.
Snowden’s latest major leak about US spying on European Union countries has angered many European governments and threatens to derail preparations for talks on a huge free trade deal between Washington and Brussels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Snowden was welcome to stay as long as he stopped leaking US intelligence reports.
“If he (Snowden) wants to remain here there is one condition—he should stop his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners no matter how strange this may sound coming from me,” Putin told reporters.
But after learning of that condition, a Kremlin spokesman said Snowden withdrew his request.
Ecuador—the first country to which Snowden applied for asylum—had earlier voiced relief at the possibility of Russia taking in Snowden.
“My opinion is that the (asylum) request to the Russian government could definitely resolve Mr. Snowden’s situation,” said President Rafael Correa.
Ecuador’s London embassy is already harbouring WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.