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July 25, 2013

Russia to Grant Snowden Permission to Leave Airport

NSA Whistleblower Still Waiting for Country to Rule on Temporary Asylum Request

Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden will likely soon be permitted to leave Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport where he has been holed up for several weeks, the BBC has reported.

Snowden, who last month asked Russia for temporary refuge until he can travel to one of the Latin America countries willing to grant him long-term asylum, has received a letter from Russia’s Federal Migration Service, sources told the BBC.  The letter reportedly grants Snowden permission to enter Russian territory while he waits for the country to rule on his request for temporary asylum.

If Snowden accepts the offer, he will be allowed to stay in Russia during the application process and will even be given new clothes, the BBC said in its report.

Earlier this month, Snowden withdrew his request for full asylum after President Vladimir Putin said asylum would be granted — but only if he stops “his work aimed at harming our American partners.”

Snowden has been at the Russian airport for more than a month as he continues to dodge attempts by the United States to have him extradited back to his homeland to face espionage charges. Snowden was charged by the U.S. Justice Department for leaking documentation about the NSA’s top-secret surveillance programs to U.K. publication The Guardian and The Washington Post.

He has since been offered full asylum by Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Although Ecuador has said Snowden must be in “Ecuadorean territory” for the country to process his request, it did indicate he would be welcomed.

Snowden has said a handful of countries in Western Europe are hindering him from making the journey to Latin America by denying him airspace at the behest of the United States.