MOSCOW, July 12 (RIA Novosti) – A meeting between fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and representatives from Russian human rights organizations will take place at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Friday afternoon, airport officials have confirmed.
“The meeting will be at 5:00 p.m.," said a spokesperson for Sheremetyevo airport, which is owned by the Russian state. "We will provide access and a location for the meeting."
Russian human rights organizations and lawyers said Friday that they have been invited to a meeting with Snowden at Sheremetyevo. It was not immediately clear whether the invitation was genuinely from Snowden, though the email address used did include his name.
“I received an invitation yesterday for 4:30 p.m. at Sheremetyevo,” said prominent Moscow lawyer Henri Reznik, “He sent invitations not only to me, but to other human rights activists.”
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, prominent lawyer Genrikh Padva and the head of Russian rights organization Resistance, Olga Kostina, all confirmed Friday that they had been invited to the meeting.
Snowden, who is wanted by Washington on charges of espionage and property theft after he leaked details of secret state surveillance programs, has been holed up in Sheremetyevo's transit zone since arriving on a June 23 flight from Hong Kong. Despite the efforts of dozens of reporters to find him, Snowden has not been seen in public, nor made any official statements, since his arrival in Moscow.
The full text of the alleged invitation from Snowden was published on Facebook by Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow branch of Human Rights Watch, who said she received it at 5 p.m. on Thursday from the email address email@example.com.
The email's sender said that he had been “extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world… Unfortunately, in recent weeks, we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the US government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum.”
Snowden, who has had his passport revoked by the United States, has submitted over 20 asylum applications to countries across the world. Latin American states including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have said they would be prepared to offer him refuge.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will not extradite Snowden to the United States, where he could face the death penalty. At the same time, the Kremlin has tried to keep its distance from the case, emphasizing that it is a human rights issue.
“Snowden himself sincerely believes, for one reason or another, that he is a rights activist, a fighter for the ideals of democracy and human freedom,” Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month. “This is admitted by Russian human rights activists and Russian human rights organizations, and their foreign counterparts.”
Peskov said Friday, not for the first time, that Snowden was not on the Kremlin’s agenda, adding that he had not requested a meeting with presidential officials.
Those attending the Snowden meeting are to gather in the center of the arrivals hall of Sheremetyevo's Terminal F, to be met by airport staff holding a sign marked “G9,” according to the email invitation posted by Lokshina.
A separate email sent subsequently from the same address, also allegedly from Snowden, said the meeting would be closed to journalists, but there would be another gathering later on for media, Reuters reported.
Snowden has denied that he has provided Russia with classified information since his arrival here almost three weeks ago. Putin has also said repeatedly that the former CIA employee was not working with Russian intelligence services.
Updated with new details, clarifications and background.