US President Obama is “disappointed,” but Wikileaks has declared a major victory following Russia granting Edward Snowden temporary asylum in Russia. “Although one battle has been won, the war for transparency and government accountability continues, Wikileaks” spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told Russian RT Media.
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.”
“This is a war against secrecy that we’ve seen escalating over the recent years, it’s a war for transparency, it’s a war for government accountability. And indeed we won of course with more information getting out to general public,” Hrafnsson said in an interview with RT. “And I’m sure it is a war that will be won. It is a war for the people and for their rights.”
Earlier on Thursday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia and has been allowed to enter the country’s territory. Moreover, with his newly legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities against his will, even if Washington files an official request.
“It is a part victory of course, this is a victory that he is now able to move freely around in Russia,” Hrafnsson said, adding though that Snowden might still be planning to seek permanent asylum status in Latin America. “He has of course offers of permanent asylum in Latin American countries and he has indicated that he wants to get there.”
Even though Snowden is now free to leave Russia whenever he wants, it won’t be that easy for him to actually get to Latin America without the US trying to stop him, Hrafnsson added.
At the meantime, Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said the “exhausted” whistleblower has no current plans to move further and is considering staying in Russia, since his 12-month residence permit can be extended indefinitely.
In a public statement, Wikileaks commended Russia for accepting Snowden’s request and supporting him when “many countries felt so compromised by US threats that they could not.”
“The United States can no longer continue the surveillance of world citizens and its digital colonization of sovereign nations,” Julian Assange said. “The public will no longer stand for it. Whistleblowers will continue to appear until the government abides by its own laws and rhetoric.”
Hrafnsson acknowledged Wikileaks commitment to fighting for the rights and protections of journalistic sources.
“We will support and help any journalist, source and whistleblower that gets into trouble for revealing the truth of a wrongdoing,” he said. “This is what we are committed to, though we are of course first and foremost a publishing organization.”
There are many courageous people out there who, despite the harsh verdict for Bradley Manning, are willing to take risk to get the truth to the people as it should be, he added.
“Isn’t it amazing that even though we have an example of the treatment of Bradley Manning, a brave and courageous man like Edward Snowden did step forth, he did blow the whistle on this absurd overreach and the attack on privacy by the US government?”