An “exhausted” Edward Snowden will have his own choice of accommodation, has no current plans to leave Russia, and still misses his girlfriend, according to his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.
“Snowden can live in a hotel or rent a flat in Russia,” said Kucherena, who has repeatedly spoken on behalf of Snowden, while his client was trapped in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport for over a month. “But the personal safety issue is a very serious one for him.”
Apologizing that he could only be “vague” about a “safe location” where Snowden has been taken, Kucherena, who is close to the Kremlin and officially campaigned for Vladimir Putin’s re-election last year, added that that the NSA whistleblower has acquired “new friends, including Americans, who will ensure his security for the time being”.
The US citizen has been issued a 12-month residence permit, which can be extended indefinitely. Snowden only has to register and then has the legal right to travel anywhere in Russia.
Kucherena said that Snowden, who had his luggage pre-packed before he was told he could leave the airport, was “exhausted” and will need “rehabilitation.”
According to Kucherena, an official invitation for the 30-year-old Snowden’s father, Lon, who has vocally supported his son in a series of high-profile TV interviews in the US, “is being finalized”.
There may also be a return for a figure that fascinated the media in the early days after Snowden’s revelations, self-described “pole-dancing superhero” girlfriend Lindsay Mills, who said she felt“betrayed” when her boyfriend disappeared following his initial video to the world.
“When I told him about the people who were calling him, including girls, such Russian girls, he told me ‘Anatoly, I still miss my girlfriend.’”
Snowden is legally allowed to work in Russia, and has already had one job offer. In what may or may not be a serious proposal, the founder of Russia’s Facebook equivalent Vkontakte, the flamboyant Pavel Durov, has offered the computer specialist a seat on his “all-star security team”.
The former NSA contractor has personally promised President Vladimir Putin that he will stop leaking“information that may harm the US”, as a condition of his asylum bid in Russia.
When questioned about how the vow fitted in with new revelations about XKeyscore, the massive information-collecting program exposed in the Guardian on Wednesday using Snowden’s data, Kucherena said that the documents about the surveillance software suite had been passed on to a journalist while Snowden was still in Hong Kong.
Kucherena said that Russia had no plans to prevent Snowden from leaving the country at any moment, saying the whistleblower may even choose to return to the US to face multiple criminal charges. But when asked if Snowden still plans to seek asylum in South America, as appeared to be his original plan, he insisted that Snowden has “no intention to travel abroad as of now”.
Edward Snowden will be entitled to Russian citizenship after spending five years in the country, though the procedure has been speeded up before for high-profile public figures, such as actor Gerard Depardieu.