MOSCOW -- A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden says the National Security Agency leaker has received asylum in Russia for one year and left the transit zone of Moscow’ airport.
Anatoly Kucherena said he handed over the papers to Snowden on Thursday. He said Snowden left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport where he was stuck since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.
Kucherena said that Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons.
The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the request.
And U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and one of Snowden’s fiercest critics, blasted Russia for agreeing to harbor him.
“If these reports are accurate, Americans in Washington should consider this a game changer in our relationship with Russia,” Graham said in a statement. “Mr. Snowden has been charged with serious crimes and has put American lives at risk at home and abroad.”
Graham said the Russian government’s decision “could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama.” He called for Congress and Obama “to make it clear to the Russian government that this provocative step in granting Snowden asylum will be met with a firm response.”
Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition.
Robert Behre contributed to this report.