MOSCOW: Fugitive United States (US) intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday awaited permission to leave the Moscow airport where he has been stuck for over a month, as the US stepped up pressure on Russia to send him back home.
Reports on Wednesday indicated that Russian authorities were preparing to let Snowden leave the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport but then—in mysterious circumstances—he failed to emerge.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia and is now awaiting a document that would allow him to formally cross the border and move freely in Russia while his application is being considered—a prospect the United States has said would be “deeply disappointing.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry about Snowden’s case on Wednesday but it was not clear if their discussion had an impact on the fugitive’s fate.
Washington wants to put the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor on trial for revealing details of vast US surveillance programs, but Moscow has rejected demands to hand him over.
The US ambassador in Russia on Thursday reiterated that Washington wants Moscow to hand over Snowden, despite the absence of an extradition agreement between the two countries.
“The US is not asking for ‘extradition’, but simply the return of Mr. Snowden. We have sent many people back to Russia,” Ambassador Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.