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Snowden may apply for Russian citizenship

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-07-18 15:55

MOSCOW - Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden may apply for Russian citizenship and does not want to leave Russia until he is granted temporary asylum, a lawyer said Wednesday.

The fugitive US intelligence whistleblower feels like being driven into a corner, said Anatoli Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who provides legal aid for Snowden.

"As soon as the (refugee) status is granted, he is free to decide whether or not he will stay in Russia. If he leaves for somewhere else, his status will be annulled," Kucherena said.

According to the lawyer, the US government reacted "hysterically" toward the latest developments of the case.

The White House said Tuesday that Snowden should be expelled and sent back to the United States to face espionage charges.

"I am more concerned with the hysteria around that case, with daily statements of the US State Department. Actually, the man got into a difficult situation in our country so we cannot but exercise humane attitude to him," the lawyer said.

According to Kucherena, Russia and the United States have no agreement on re-admission. Russia, therefore, cannot extradite Snowden, who has not committed any crime on Russian territory.

Meanwhile, Kucherena said, Snowden did not qualify for state protection.

"The Refugee Status Law does not include state protection. He will have the same rights as any other person eligible under these regulations," Kucherena said.

Snowden filed an official request for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday. The process of granting refugee status in Russia normally takes three to six months.

In line with the Russian law, refugee status is granted for one year with possible annual extension. It allows freedom of movement in the country and the right to work.

If the Federal Migration Service denies the application, Snowden will have to return to a transit zone at any airport in Russia. But Kucherena said the decision would most likely be positive.

Meanwhile, some local experts believed that Snowden had created a dilemma for Russia. A rejection of his request will go against humanitarianism while approval will irritate Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday reiterated that any of Snowden's actions damaging Russia-US relations were "unacceptable" for Russia.

The relationship between Russia and the United States is more important than any intelligence scandal, Putin said.

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