MOSCOW — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who fled to Moscow’s airport a month ago, aims to stay in Russia for the near future and learn the country’s culture and language, his lawyer said yesterday.
To get him started, Anatoly Kucherena said he gave Snowden a copy of “Crime and Punishment,” Dostoyevsky’s lengthy novel about the torment and redemption of a man who thought himself outside the law.
“I am not talking about the similarity of inner contradictions,” Kucherena said after meeting Snowden in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo international airport, where Snowden has apparently been marooned since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
The day’s developments left the White House — and nearly everyone else — “seeking clarity” about the status of the man who revealed details of an NSA program to monitor Internet and telephone communications.
When Snowden first arrived at Sheremetyevo, he was believed to be planning just to transfer to a flight to Cuba and then to Venezuela to seek asylum. But the United States, which wants him returned for prosecution, canceled his passport, stranding him. He hasn’t been seen in public since, although he met with human rights activists and lawyers July 12.
Snowden then applied for temporary asylum in Russia, saying he eventually wanted to visit countries that had offered him asylum: Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
It’s unclear how long Russia will take to decide on the asylum request. Kucherena’s meeting yesterday with Snowden was preceded by a flurry of reports that said the lawyer would give him documentation that would allow him to leave the airport while the asylum process is underway.
But Kucherena said he had no such paperwork to pass along. The Federal Migration Service, which would issue such a document, said it had no information.
Asked about Snowden’s long-term intentions, Kucherena told state television that “Russia is his final destination for now. He doesn’t look further into the future than that.”