MOSCOW, June 11 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian authorities will consider political asylum for Edward Snowden, who risks prosecution in the United States for his recent blockbuster spy leaks, if he sends a proper request, business daily Kommersant said Tuesday, citing the Kremlin spokesman.
“If we receive such a request, we will consider it,” Kommersant quoted presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Snowden, a 29-year-old former employee of the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), unmasked himself on Sunday as a source of recent disclosures about US government’s secret surveillance programs.
He said he was aware of possible prosecution but disclosed secret documents in response to America’s systematic surveillance of innocent citizens.
The leaks have led the NSA to ask the US Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation with possible “state treason” charges. The Justice Department did not comment on the issue saying only that it was in the “initial stages of an investigation” into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, according to The Washington Post.
Snowden, who moved to Hong Kong from the United States before revealing secrets to media, earlier told The Washington Post that he was seeking “asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.”
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been hiding at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June last year to avoid his extradition to Sweden, on Monday called Snowden a “hero” and urged other countries to grant the US whistleblower political asylum.
“What other countries need to do is line up to give support for him. Everyone should go to their politicians and press and demand that they offer Mr. Snowden asylum in their country,” Sky News quoted him as saying.