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Snowden asks for political asylum in Russia, Kremlin remains silent


08:02, July 02, 2013

MOSCOW, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Fugitive U.S. citizen Edward Snowden has asked for political asylum in Russia, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. The Kremlin made no comments over the latest developments.

"British citizen Sarah Harrison who acted on behalf of the U.S. citizen Edward Snowden arrived at the consular office of the Foreign Ministry in the Sheremetyevo airport. She has handed over to the Russian diplomats Snowden's request about granting him political asylum in Russia," the Interfax news agency quoted consular officer Kim Shevchenko as saying.

According to Shevchenko, he passed Snowden's note to a Foreign Ministry's messenger.

The fate of Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, became a hot political issue in Russia following his unexpected arrival and self-confinement in Moscow airport's transit zone seven days ago.

Russian officials are divided over the question, whether or not Snowden's asylum request should be approved or rejected.

Snowden, wanted by the U.S. for leaking the government's surveillance programs, revealed the problems with democracy and human rights in the United States itself, Russian Public Chamber said Monday.

"Public Chamber urges the U.S. civil society and public figures to discuss the issue about massive violation of the rights and freedoms of their fellow citizens as well as foreign nationals through the use of global social networks," the Chamber said in a statement published on its official website.

Public Chamber is a half-elected, half-appointed body supposed to provide feedback between common citizens and government institutions.

The Chamber urged the White House to pay more attention to democracy in the United States and to investigate reports about bugging the European Union's missions.

It also offered to set up a working group within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to investigate the situation around the U.S. fugitive who has been in the legal limbo since his arrival at Moscow's Sheremetyavo airport seven days ago from Hong Kong.

The discussion participants also highlighted that Snowden deserved to be granted asylum in Russia if there would be a wide consensus over the issue in the country.

Snowden remains in the airport transit area being unable to quit it after the U.S. government canceled his passport.

The Russian government, however, has been more reserved in its attitude toward Snowden's saga. Kremlin so far remains silent over the latest developments.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov Sunday reiterated remarks of the Putin made last week that Snowden has not technically crossed Russia's border, saying "I am not ready to comment on this at the moment."

"This subject is, consequently, not on Kremlin's agenda," Peskov told a local radio.

Earlier Monday, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Putin has not discussed the issue so far with his U.S. and Venezuelan counterparts.

Putin on Monday suggested that Snowden might stay in Russia "if he stops damaging the U.S. partners" and insisted the Russian special services did not approach Snowden.

"Snowden is not our agent. Neither does he cooperate with us, nor do we work with him," Putin noted.

Still, Putin stressed, the U.S. whistleblower would not be welcomed to Russia if he proceeds with his human rights activities.

The Sheremetyevo transit area is technically not under the Russia's jurisdiction, but Snowden's reported presence at a Moscow airport mounts tension between Russia and the U.S. since his arrival there last week.

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