The U.S. is asking Russia to clarify the status of fugitive former security contractor Edward Snowden after reports from Moscow that he’s been given papers to leave the airport, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
“We have seen the reports,” Carney told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One. “We are seeking clarity from the Russian authorities about Mr. Snowden’s status or any changes.”
Snowden applied for a 12-month renewable refugee status in Russia on July 16. The state-run news service RIA Novosti, citing unidentified officials, reported he has been issued papers by the Federal Migration Service that would allow him to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
His Moscow-based lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters in Moscow today that Snowden remains at the airport and is still awaiting the documentation.
Snowden’s presence in Russia has further strained relations with the U.S. weeks before Obama is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in early September just ahead of a meeting of Group of 20 nations in St. Petersburg.
The Obama administration has repeatedly urged Russia to expel Snowden to the U.S. and White House officials have repeatedly declined to confirm that the meeting with Putin will proceed.
“It our view that Mr. Snowden should be expelled and returned to the United States,” Carney said today. Regarding any meeting with Putin, he would only say that Obama “intends to travel to Russia for the G-20 summit.”
Snowden, who exposed classified U.S. programs that collect telephone and Internet data, has been seeking asylum around the world as U.S. authorities press for his return to face prosecution.