MOSCOW – Edward Snowden has abandoned his effort to seek asylum in Russia after President Vladimir Putin warned that he would have to stop leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs if he wanted to stay, a Russian official said Tuesday.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said it had submitted asylum requests to 19 more countries for Snowden, the ex-National Security Agency computer contractor who has admitted providing secret documents on surveillance programs to reporters.
Snowden has been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport for more than a week.
“Snowden did voice a request to remain in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “Then, yesterday, hearing President Putin outline Russia’s position regarding the conditions under which he could do this, he withdrew his request for permission to stay in Russia.”
Putin said Monday that Snowden “must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wanted to stay in the country.
The other countries where WikiLeaks said it had submitted asylum requests on Sunday range from Latin America through Europe and on to Asia.
On Tuesday, Poland said it grants asylum if the country’s interests are at stake.
“This particular premise would not be met,” the Foreign Ministry said about Snowden’s case.
Snowden had already sought asylum in Iceland and in Ecuador, which had said it was considering the request. But recent comments from the Ecuadorian president suggest the South American country’s support for Snowden’s flight across the globe may be waning.
The United States has been pressing countries to refuse Snowden entry and hand him over to face espionage charges. His disclosures have created a political storm at home and diplomatic headaches abroad for President Barack Obama.
WikiLeaks released a statement attributed to Snowden late Monday in which he blasted the Obama administration for trying to block his efforts to seek refuge. For more on this CNN story, click here.
The full statement:
One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.
On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.
Edward Joseph Snowden
Monday 1st July 2013