The father of former U.S. government security contractor Edward Snowden arrived in Russia to see his son for the first time since April, thanking President Vladimir Putin for granting him refuge that ended a global manhunt.
Lon Snowden expressed his “extreme gratitude that my son is safe and secure and he’s free,” according to comments televised by Russian state channel RT after his arrival today at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. “I am extremely thankful again to the Russian people, to President Vladimir Putin.”
Edward Snowden, 30, who faces espionage charges in the U.S. for disclosing secret surveillance programs, received one-year asylum in Russia on Aug. 1, ending his 39-day stay in Sheremetyevo where he had been holed up since arriving from Hong Kong. The decision sparked a rift between the former Cold War foes, with President Barack Obama canceling a planned summit with Putin in Moscow.
The Russian leader, who’s demanded that Snowden stop anti-U.S. activity in exchange for sanctuary, has defended the move to grant him asylum, saying the U.S. left Russia with no choice after blocking his departure from Moscow to Latin America, his intended final destination.
“I’m not sure that my son will be returning to the U.S.,” he said. “That’s his decision. He’s an adult. I’m his father. I love my son.”
Snowden, who exposed classified U.S. programs that collect telephone and Internet data, had been seeking asylum around the world as American authorities pressed for his return to face prosecution. Snowden revealed that the U.S. government was secretly collecting bulk data on phone and Internet use to monitor online activity of foreigners believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.
Lon Snowden, who has previously defended his son, said that Edward has refrained from further disclosures since he arrived in Russia.
“Edward Snowden is not leaking information,” he said. “He is a whistleblower and he passed along information in Hong Kong to responsible journalists who have been writing stories since. But Edward Snowden since he has been in Russia my understanding is he has simply been trying to remain healthy and safe.”
In a later interview with state television channel Rossiya 24, the elder Snowden said he arrived in Russia on a multiple-entry visa and last saw his son in early April. Edward’s Moscow-based lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Russia has received no extradition request from the U.S. over Snowden.
The fugitive American expects to get a job soon as his savings are running out, Kucherena said on Rossiya 24. He’s received numerous job offers and is choosing between employment in the information technology industry and advocacy of human rights, according to Kucherena, who says he last met him yesterday.
While Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have previously indicated they’d be willing to accept Snowden, Kucherena said his client isn’t negotiating asylum with any other countries.
“He’s still being pursued, the situation remains highly dangerous,” the lawyer said. “Edward is leading a relatively low-profile life, primarily because he is being pursued by a rather great power, that is the U.S. government”
To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at firstname.lastname@example.org