Snowden: between the cold war poles

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Russia will make the right decision if it agrees to grant temporary asylum to former CIA employee Edward Snowden, European Social and Economic Committee President Henri Malosse said. Snowden is still staying at the Sheremetyevo airport as his asylum status has not been resolved yet.

Malosse said he believes that giving Snowden temporary asylum in Russia would be the right step.

The European civil society representative said he thinks that France would do the same.

The European Social and Economic Committee was established under the Rome Treaty in 1957 as a consultative body to represent Europe’s civil society. The committee has been acting as a bridge between European Union institutions and the civil societies of EU member countries. It offers recommendations which EU institutions are required to consider.

A few years ago, the European Commission passed a law intended to protect people who expose violations of ethical standards and laws, Malosse said.

The situation with Mr. Snowden accurately falls under this legislation, he said.

“In an ethical and democratic society, people who reveal serious violations should be protected and should not be put in prison”, Malosse said.

“Bradley Manning, who worked closely with whistle-blowing website founder Julian Assange, should not be held in custody”, he said. Malosse said he is surprised that Mr. Manning has been taken into custody in a democratic country like the United States.

Russia does not have legal grounds for extraditing former CIA employee Edward Snowden to the United States, Federal Migration Service Public Council head Vladimir Volokh stated.

“There are no legal grounds for returning Snowden to the Americans. The transfer of Snowden to the United States would contradict every international legal norm,” said Volokh, former deputy head of the Federal Migration Service.

He noted that Russia was unable to transfer Snowden to the United States because it was a member of the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951.

“The convention makes impossible the extradition of a person to the state where this person will be in danger,” Volokh said.

Another reason why the transfer is impossible is the request of Snowden for temporary asylum in Russia, he added.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May 2013 and exposed US covert online surveillance operations. He is currently staying in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport. The United States is seeking the extradition of Snowden to charge him with a leak of classified data. Russia has received a former temporary asylum request from Snowden.

American Ambassador in Russia Michael McFaul has indicated that Washington wants the fleeing intelligence leaker, Edward Snowden, returned to the US and not extradited.

Russian media have cited Mr. McFaul as tweeting in his microblog the US wanted Russia to return Snowden same as it had already returned many people to Russia.

“The US is not asking for ‘extradition’, but simply the return of Mr. Snowden. We have sent many people back to Russia,” Mr. McFaul claimed.

The diplomat also tweeted that “Mr. Snowden ought to be returned to the US to face the felony charges against him.”

The fugitive US spy agency contractor, Edward Snowden, has been holed up in a transit area lounge at a Moscow airport after Washington annulled his passport over a month ago.

On July 16, Mr. Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia and got a paper saying his request was pending. But the document was deemed not enough to allow him to leave the airport.

US Senator Robert Menendez warned Russia that granting Edward Snowden an asylum status would harm Russian-US relations, as he faces serious allegations of espionage in the US.

“I repeat my message to Russia that providing any refuge to Edward Snowden will be harmful to US-Russia relations,” said Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez.

“Edward Snowden is a fugitive who should be prosecuted in the US for the serious allegations of espionage. Snowden remains in possession of sensitive documents and for Russia or any nation to grant him asylum or safe passage directly concerns our national security priorities. Edward Snowden’s release of classified information could benefit our enemies and I call on Russia to immediately release him into the custody of the US government.”

The case of former CIA employee Edward Snowden is politicized, Russian human rights movement veteran, Civil Assistance Committee head Svetlana Gannushkina said.

“The Snowden case has become a show. It is extremely politicized,” she said.

The Snowden situation is being dragged out and the Russian authorities have not announced the beginning of the processing of his temporary asylum request, Gannushkina said.

“The US actions are understandable, they want his extradition but I do not quite like the way they [the Americans]are behaving. Their pressure is too much, they are almost threatening,” said Gannushkina, whose area of expertise is assistance to refugees.

In her opinion, Snowden has the right to receive asylum in Russia.

“If I understand his case correctly, I would have granted him refugee status if I could,” Gannushkina said. “I do not think that this case is rare or unusual. This is an absolutely common situation, where a man pursued by a country for criminal prosecution asks for asylum and the country where he is asking for asylum considers his situation in strict compliance with the law,” Gannushkina said.

Human rights defenders have urged Russia not to extradite Snowden to the United States. They said he would be in danger if he returned there.

The United States would be “deeply” disappointed if Edward Snowden were allowed to depart the Moscow airport where he has reportedly been living for the last month, the US State Department said Wednesday

“We have seen, of course, the press reports and are seeking clarification from the Russian government,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “Obviously any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone Wednesday morning, Psaki said, a conversation that followed Russian media reports citing sources at the airport and with Russian migration authorities saying that Snowden had been issued a document that would allow him to leave the transit zone.

Russian newspaper Kommersant writes that the US has sent to Russia an official demand to extradite Edward Snowden.

Although there are no official agreements between the two countries that would oblige Russia to extradite people wanted in the US, the US’s letter that demands Snowden’s extradition was official, the newspaper says.

Kommersant also says, referring to a source close to the US administration, that Russia and the US are now discussing the situation with Snowden practically every day.

The US’ letter unequivocally gives it to understand that if Russia grants political asylum to Snowden, this may aggravate the US-Russian relations.

Edward Snowden won’t leave Sherevetyevo’s tranzit zone today since the paperwork is not ready yet said Anatoly Kucherena after a meeting with the whistleblower. Kucherena also claimed that a delay in asylum decision is caused by uniqueness of Snowden situation.

A decision on whether or not former CIA employee Edward Snowden will be granted temporary asylum has not been made so far, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said after they had had a meeting. “I have to tell you that a decision has not been made,” he told reporters in Sheremetyevo on Wednesday.

The asylum application of Snowden “is being processed,” Kucherena said.

Kucherena has explained the delay in granting asylum to former CIA employee Edward Snowden by citing the uniqueness of his situation.

“This situation is unique for Russia and we must understand that. There have never been such cases or applications before. There is a certain procedure and the Federal Migration Service is obliged to comply with it,” Kucherena said after he met with the US whistleblower in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport.

“He is staying in the transit zone in accordance with the existent regulations. He is acting precisely within the regulations’ framework,” Kucherena added.

The lawyer underlined that issuing Snowden asylum certificate won’t take long. Former CIA employee Edward Snowden may be issued with the temporary asylum certificate in the near future, Kucherena said.

He said he didn’t know when exactly the decision might be made though. “We are waiting. I speak to the Migration Service every day. I was told at the FMS that the documents are being considered as there is a special procedure for that. They have a number of questions. And the migration service should be dealing with them. As soon as a decision is made I will tell you about it,” Kucherena told reporters.

Kucherena shared a few details on his conversation with Snowden. “I can only reveal part of the conversation to you. Definitely we discussed the current issues – this is the reason why he invited me. He didn’t have the proper understanding of the situation he is in. He asked if he has any restrictions if he is granted asylum in Russia. I told him he wouldn’t have any restrictions to travel around Russia. As far as the books I brought him, I told him that he has to know who Raskolnikov is”.

According to the lawyer, Snowden apologized that he could not give an interview in person. He cannot do it before his asylum request is processed due to security concerns.

“I think you have to understand the situation Snowden is in. The issue of his security is his utmost priority. So even after he receives the status of refugee not thinking about his security would be wrong for him. We discussed the issue of communication with him – currently only he can contact me. I told him that he is free to call me anytime”, said the lawyer.

Fugitive American will meet reporters after his position has been clarified. The lawyer added that Snowden contacts him and meets him on his own initiative.

Snowden is thankful to Russia for not abandoning him and supporting him. He asked Kucherena to say hello to all the journalists that came here. He said many thanks to all the staff of Sheremetyevo and also thanked everyone who called him and who sent him some money.

“As to how he is, he is more or less okay. He is looking forward to the solution of his problem. His mood is also more or less okay, normal, considering that he is practically being held under house arrest. So, let us cheer him up,” Kucherena said.

Earlier, it was claimed that Edward Snowden may work in Russia if he obtains temporary asylum.

Federal Migration Service website reported that “persons seeking refuge in Russia who obtain refugee status, political or temporary asylum, have an access to the domestic labor market. They may work without applying for a work permit.”

The applicant is issued a certificate to confirm the processing of the asylum request. This document gives the applicant the right to stay in Russia during the request processing period.

THE VOICE OF RUSSIA

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