MOSCOW — Russia is likely to approve former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s application to continue his asylum in the next few days, a Russian migration official said Friday.
“I do not see any problem in extending the temporary political asylum,” Vladimir Volokh, head of a key advisory council to Russia’s federal migration service, told the Russian news service Interfax. “Circumstances have not changed. Snowden’s life is still in danger; therefore the Federal Migration Service has every basis to prolong his status.”
Snowden’s Russian attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters Wednesday that his client had formally applied to stay in Russia past the expiration of his current temporary asylum on July 31.
Russian authorities granted Snowden that status last summer, after the former National Security Agency contractor became stranded in a Moscow airport en route from Hong Kong to Cuba. U.S. authorities had revoked his passport after he revealed himself as the source of massive leaks detailing the inner workings of U.S. intelligence services, first published in The Washington Post and The Guardian.
Snowden publicized details of the government’s global surveillance activities and its Internet data-mining practices in a series of documents he handed over to certain members of the press. He was charged with two counts of espionage and theft of government property .
But the United States has not been able to get Snowden back home to face those charges — and if Russia extends his asylum, that goal is sure to be even harder to achieve.
A recent investigation by The Post’s Greg Miller showed that the United States is dependent on Russia to produce Snowden, as U.S. intelligence officials have little to no independent information on even the most basic facts about his day-to-day existence.
U.S. officials do not really know where Snowden is living in Russia, Miller’s investigation found, or how much routine contact he has with the Russian authorities.
Russia ignored initial entreaties to return Snowden to the United States last summer. Since then, relations between the two governments — now engaged in an open standoff in which the Obama administration is pushing to sanction Russia over its involvement in Ukraine’s separatist uprising and annexation of Crimea — have significantly worsened.
Volokh told Interfax that Snowden could have his asylum application reviewed and his status extended in as little as a week.
“This is done quickly,” he said.