MOSCOW (AP) — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden could leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport after Russian authorities review his asylum request, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Anatoly Kucherena told the news agency Interfax he believes that Moscow could decide within a week whether to grant Snowden asylum.
“The question of giving him temporary asylum won’t take more than a week. I think that in the near future he will have the possibility to leave the Sheremetyevo transit zone,” Kucherena was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia three weeks after arriving at a Moscow airport from Hong Kong. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage.
Granting Snowden asylum would add new tensions to U.S.-Russian relations already strained by criticism of Russia’s pressure on opposition groups, Moscow’s suspicion of U.S. missile-defense plans and Russia’s resistance to sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
How long the asylum process could take for Snowden is unclear. The Federal Migration Service is required to consider the application within three months, but could do it faster.
Snowden is believed to have spent his time since arriving in Moscow in the Sheremetyevo Airport transit zone, which is technically not Russian territory.
President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Snowden has been warned against taking any actions that would damage relations between Moscow and Washington.
On a visit to the Siberian city of Chita, Putin said “we have warned Mr. Snowden that any actions by him connected with harming Russian-American relations are unacceptable,” according to Russian news agencies.
Russian news reports have suggested Snowden could be taken to one of the facilities the migration service operates for those seeking refugee status.