National security leaker Edward Snowden, wanted in the United States for espionage, has left Moscow's airport and entered Russia, his lawyer told the Associated Press.
Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Thursday that Snowden was issued papers that allowed him to leave Sheremetyevo airport, where he had been stranded since June 23. He said Snowden was granted asylum for one year in Russia. The location was not released.
The Obama administration had declined to comment Thursday morning.
"We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden," tweeted WikiLeaks, a website that’s published classified U.S. information and helped Snowden. "We have won the battle -- now the war."
The issue has further complicated U.S.-Russian relations. The White House has hinted President Barack Obama may cancel a previously scheduled trip to Moscow in September.
A recent poll shows most Americans -- 55 percent -- consider Snowden a whistleblower not a traitor,according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Thirty-four percent say he's a traitor. The finding is unchanged from a July 10 survey.
"Most American voters think positively of Edward Snowden, but that was before he accepted asylum in Russia," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
A McClatchy-Marist poll last week found that a majority of Americans feel the government has gone too far in monitoring the digital activity of private citizens. Responses were mixed to Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the mass surveillance.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Russia last week that Snowden will not face the death penalty or torture if he is returned to the United States to face espionage charges.
In a letter made public Friday, Holder told Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov that the former contractor's professed fears of facing abuse and possible execution are "entirely without merit."
"The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes," Holder wrote. "Second, Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States."
The United States has been trying to convince Russian authorities to send Snowden back to the United States to face criminals charges.
The U.S. and Russia have cooperated on several recent issues, including the Boston Marathon bombing, but they’re at odds on a series of others, from the escalating civil war in Syria to Russia’s recent ban on adoptions of its children by American parents.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made this statement today on the reports that Russia has granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum.
"Americans in Washington should consider this a game changer in our relationship with Russia," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Today’s action by the Russian government could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama. It is now time for Congress, hopefully in conjunction with the Administration, to make it clear to the Russian government that this provocative step in granting Snowden asylum will be met with a firm response.”
Snowden, 30, a former CIA employee and National Security Administration contractor revealed himself to be the leaker of classified documents about surveillance programs. The U.S. government has charged him with various crimes under the espionage act.
Snowden had tried to seek refuge in several nations, but ended up at the Moscow airport after China allowed him to leave Hong Kong.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the statement below regarding the recent developments in Russia concerning Edward Snowden:
“Edward Snowden is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia,” Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Regardless of the fact that Russia is granting asylum for one year, this action is a setback to U.S.-Russia relations. Edward Snowden will potentially do great damage to U.S. national security interests and the information he is leaking could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country. Russia must return Snowden to face trial at home.”