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Snowden’s statement came at the conclusion of a meeting he had called for with human rights groups representatives at the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been staying since his arrival on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Russian MP who attended the meeting that was held in a corridor in the transit section of the airport, confirmed that Snowden plans to seek asylum in Russia.
“Snowden is [aware of] the condition President Putin made – that he has to stop harming the US. He says he can easily do so, it’s all in the past, and in the future he doesn’t intend to harm the US,” Nikonov said.
Genri Reznik, the head of the Moscow Lawyers Association, said Snowden understands Putin is trying to avoid confrontation with the US, and that there likely wouldn’t be any obstacles in approving his request to stay in Russia.
“I’m convinced now that Snowden is driven by ideas – he really believes that US intelligence services are violating the US Constitution,” he said.
“His position is shared by 55 per cent of Americans. Different interests collide here – government interests, human rights, and defence interests, but you can’t sacrifice human rights,” Reznik added.
On July 1, media reports speculated that Snowden’s options were running out and that he had applied for asylum in Russia. Although Moscow did not officially comment on the reports, Putin told a news conference during a visit to Finland that Snowden could stay in Russia provided he “stop his work directed at hurting our American partners”.
Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who also attended the meeting, later told some 200 reporters who swarmed the airport, that Snowden seeks to stay in Russia as he “can’t fly to Latin America yet”.
On July 8, Snowden officially applied for asylum in Nicaragua after President Daniel Ortega said he would be welcomed under the right circumstances. Venezuela and Bolivia also offered asylum to the former CIA contractor.
According to Nikonov, Snowden said he appreciated the offer of the countries who offered him political asylum.
In his email to human rights groups earlier today, Snowden said he wanted to discuss “the next steps forward in my situation”.
Human Rights Watch, Transparency International and Amnesty International have confirmed receiving the email from Snowden.“The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent,” reads the letter from Snowden which was posted on Facebook by a Human Rights Watch official.
“Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” Snowden wrote.
He was referring to the incident in which an aircraft carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after being denied permission to fly over France on suspicion Snowden was on board. A search of the plane turned up nothing.
A host of South American nations including Brazil have supported Morales in expressing outrage at the rerouting of his plane.
“This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution,” Snowden added.
Snowden told Nikonov that he is a “libertarian” and is not linked to any political party in the US.
By Daria Chernyshova at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Russia for The BRICS Post