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Snowden gets novel and change of clothes, but no clearance to exit airport

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Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer for Edward J. Snowden, said Wednesday that paperwork on his asylum request had been delayed.Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer for Edward J. Snowden, said Wednesday that paperwork on his asylum request had been delayed.

After a month holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor sought by the United States on espionage charges, received a change of clothes and a copy of “Crime and Punishment” during a meeting with his lawyer on Wednesday, but still no clearance to enter Russia.

Mr. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, and Russian news agencies had reported earlier on Wednesday that the Russian Federal Migration Service had issued a certificate confirming his application and permitting him to pass through Russian border control. A huge throng of reporters and camera crews gathered at the airport terminal in anticipation of Mr. Snowden’s departure.

But around 6 p.m., Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer assisting Mr. Snowden with his asylum request, emerged from the transit zone and said that the certificate had not been received. He did not cite a reason for the delay but said officials had informed him that Mr. Snowden’s situation “was not a standard process” and that the paperwork needed to allow him to depart the airport required more time.

Mr. Kucherena said he had met with Mr. Snowden and described him as being in good spirits, with plans to learn Russian. He said he had taken him the copy of the Dostoyevsky book.

The Federal Migration Service declined to comment on the status of Mr. Snowden’s asylum request. He has been staying at the airport’s international transit zone since June 23, having flown here from Hong Kong one step ahead of an extradition request from the United States.

While the bureaucratic process has unfolded slowly, Russian officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin, have made clear that they have no intention of extraditing him to the United States — a position that has infuriated the Obama administration.

Mr. Putin has insisted that Mr. Snowden’s presence in Russia should not harm relations between the two countries, even as the White House has signaled that President Obama, amid mounting frustration, may cancel a planned summit meeting in Moscow in September.

Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, on Wednesday to discuss Mr. Snowden and reiterate the administration’s assertion that he should be returned to the United States for trial, said the State Department’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.

“Any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing,” Ms. Psaki said.

Russian officials this week issued statements noting that the United States has routinely rejected extradition requests from the Russian government, apparently to send a message that the Americans have no right to expect Mr. Snowden’s repatriation.

Mr. Kucherena, speaking to a crowd of reporters, said he had been trying to get a determination from the migration service. “Concerning today’s situation, I spent lots of time working on the question today, and currently the question is not resolved,” he said, adding, “He is located here, and he is living here.”

“The situation is not standard for Russia,” he said. “There is lots of bureaucracy to get through, the documents are still being looked over.”

He said that Mr. Snowden had been wearing the same clothes since arriving from Hong Kong. The lawyer brought him new shirts and a fresh pair of jeans.

“He plans to study Russia’s culture,” Mr. Kucherena said. “He wanted to see Russia and what we talked about with him today, I gave him books. I gave him Dostoyevsky, ‘Crime and Punishment.’ I thought it would be pleasant for him to read about just who is Raskolnikov.” He was referring to the protagonist in the book, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, who deals with mental anguish and moral issues from killing a malicious pawnbroker.

In an interview with Rossiya 24 television earlier, Mr. Kucherena said he thought Mr. Snowden would find the novel relevant to his own situation.

“I don’t want to say that their internal conflicts are similar, but all the same, I think it’s a world classic and it will be interesting for him,” the lawyer said. He also told Rossiya 24 he would take Mr. Snowden works by Anton Chekhov, a master of the modern short story.

“Chekhov is my favorite writer,” he said. “That’s why I think it will be interesting for him to see how Chekhov described our reality through people that lived through that epoch.”

The New York Times

July 25 2013, 12:24

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