Russia yesterday faced the wrath of the US after granting asylum to fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who was settling into a safe house after over five weeks marooned in a Moscow airport transit zone.
The whereabouts of Snowden — who is wanted by Washington after leaking details of vast US surveillance programs — remained a mystery, with his lawyer refusing to disclose the location for security reasons.
The White House said it was “extremely disappointed” by Moscow’s decision to grant Snowden asylum, adding that it would now review the need for a planned summit between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.
Nicknamed “the invisible man” by journalists, the former National Security Agency contractor walked out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport unnoticed on Thursday and took a taxi to a secret location. He now has temporary asylum in Russia for a year.
On Friday, the pro-Kremlin Life News Web site published a photograph showing Snowden smiling broadly as he walked through the airport arrivals area with a rucksack on his back and carrying another bag.
He was shown accompanied by his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena and a staff member of the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy Web site, Sarah Harrison, as well as an unidentified dark-haired woman.
Snowden and Harrison had stayed in the transit zone of the airport north of Moscow since flying in from Hong Kong on June 23.
Kucherena said Snowden would eventually emerge into public view and give interviews, but the fugitive first required an “adaptation course” after so long in the transit zone.
“He has sorted out where he will live, everything is fine,” Kucherena told the RIA Novosti news agency yesterday.