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Snowden Asked 15 Countries For Asylum, Russian Official Says

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Snowden Asked 15 Countries For Asylum, Russian Official Says

07.01.13 10:33 AM

MOSCOW, (UPI) –* After Ecuador rejected his plea for protection, American fugitive Edward Snowden sought political asylum in 15 countries, a Russian diplomatic official said.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor now in Russia, met Monday with Russian diplomatic officials and handed them an appeal to 15 countries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It was a desperate measure on his part after Ecuador disavowed his political protection credentials,” an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official said.

The official did not disclose the names of countries, but the British Broadcasting Corp., citing Foreign Ministry Consul Kim Shevchenko, said a request to Russia for political asylum was made Sunday night.

The meeting took place in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where Snowden has apparently been in residence since fleeing from Hong Kong to Moscow in search of a nation that will harbor him, the BBC said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday Snowden can stay in Russia but “must stop his work aimed at harming our U.S. partners,” the Russian news agency RIA Novosti said.

Putin added Russia has no immediate plans to extradite Snowden, and denied Snowden ever had ties to the Russian intelligence services.

Snowden’s situation will not upset U.S.-China relations, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday during a summit in Brunei.

The United States has been critical of China’s involvement in the Snowden affair but Kerry struck a conciliatory chord, saying international relationships are “often complicated.”

Snowden’s ability to avoid detention in Hong Kong and travel to Moscow despite a U.S. request that he be arrested prompted an angry response by Obama administration officials as the drama first played out.

The White House last week described the development as a “serious setback” to U.S.-China relations and Kerry warned that it would have “consequences” for ties with Beijing.

China was accused of facilitating a flight to Moscow by Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about cellphone and Internet monitoring programs. At first he was holed up in Hong Kong, then fled to Moscow and reportedly was seeking to travel to another country to avoid being returned to the United States, where he faces at least two spy-related charges.

Kerry, after meeting with his Chinese counterpart during a conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, hosted by Southeast Asian nations, said the Snowden matter was one of many diplomatic issues and noted that Beijing has been helpful in pressuring North Korea to refrain from provocative actions, The New York Times reported.

“Life in international relationships is often complicated by the fact that you have many things you have to work on simultaneously, and so we will continue to do that even as we are obviously concerned about what happened with Mr. Snowden,” he said.

What happens to Snowden is Russia’s call, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said.

“He’s in the international area of the Moscow airport, but basically under the care of the Russian authorities,” Correa told Times. “Strictly speaking, the case is not in our hands.”

Snowden’s U.S. passport has been revoked. With no valid passport, he would normally not be able to pass through Russian immigration control or travel on to another country.

A Russian immigration official told the Times Snowden had not applied for a visa. The official said Snowden could remain in the transit zone of Moscow’s airport indefinitely if he wanted.

Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told Echo of Moscow radio Sunday Snowden was “not a topic on the agenda of the Kremlin.”

“Since this is not our issue, I don’t know what the options for the development of the situation can be,” Peskov said.

Snowden flew to Moscow from Hong Kong June 23 and was reported planning to connect to a flight to Havana. From Cuba, he was to fly to Ecuador.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who praised Snowden, 30, as “a brave youth” and offered to grant him asylum, was to arrive in Moscow Monday for a two-day visit to participate in the international Gas Exporting Countries Forum.

There has been speculation Maduro might offer to take Snowden back to Venezuela on his official jet, some media outlets reported.

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