By Jessica Golloher – MOSCOW — A Russian Federal Migration Service official said he believes it’s best that former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden remain in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport because he is a wanted man and is safer there. The United States has promised Russia it will not seek the death penalty if Snowden, a former Hawaii resident, is returned to America to face espionage charges.
Snowden’s lawyer says his application for asylum has been submitted to Russia’s Federal Migration Service, or FMS, and it’s now a wait and see situation.
Vladimir Volokh, head of the FMS’s public council, said if Snowden leaves Sheremetyevo, Russia can’t guarantee his safety.
“I don’t think it is good for Snowden to travel freely in Russia, as he is wanted now,” Volokh said, adding that he thinks the safest area for Snowden is to remain in the transit area at the airport or in areas under the jurisdiction of the FMS.
Volokh’s comments came as Washington promised Snowden wouldn’t face the death penalty were he expelled to the U.S. In a letter to Russia’s justice minister, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder assured the Kremlin that the criminal charges Snowden faces back home don’t carry the death penalty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to extradite Snowden, saying he is a free man.
Snowden’s lawyer says that once the former NSA contractor has the documents to leave Sheremetyevo he’ll be seeking to establish a life in Russia, at least for now.
The dispute over Snowden is the latest between Moscow and Washington. The two sides continue to disagree over a myriad of issues including missile defense, Syria and adoptions.