2 Aug 2013

US 'disappointed' at Snowden asylum

10:25 am on 2 August 2013

The US government has expressed its "extreme disappointment" that Russia has granted former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden temporary asylum.

Mr Snowden slipped quietly out of a Moscow airport on Thursday where he had been holed up since June.

The 30-year-old is wanted in the United States for leaking details of secret government surveillance programmes. He arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on 23 June and was stranded at Sheremetyevo airport after the US revoked his passport.

A Russian lawyer who has been assisting him said he had gone to a safe location which would remain secret.

The case has caused new strains in relations between Russia and the United States, which wants him extradited to face espionage charges.

The White House said US president Barack Obama was rethinking whether to hold a summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September, and an official said other top level talks were in doubt.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration was extremely disappointed by Russia's decision to give Mr Snowden temporary asylum.

A US official told Reuters high-level talks scheduled for next week between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts were now "up in the air".

Temporary asylum

Grainy images on Russian television showed Mr Snowden's new document, which is similar to a Russian passport, and revealed that he had been granted asylum for a year from 31 July.

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Reuters that Mr Snowden was not going to stay at an embassy in Moscow, although three Latin American countries have offered to shelter him.

Snowden, 30, was accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a representative of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which confirmed he had left the airport.

"We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr Snowden. We have won the battle - now the war," WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela have offered him refuge, but there are no direct commercial flights to Latin America from Moscow and Mr Snowden was concerned the United States would intercept his flight to prevent him reaching a new destination.