Former United States National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor Edward Snowden has finally been granted asylum for one year in Russia. He entered the country on Thursday after spending over five weeks at the Moscow Airport. Snowden became a fugitive after disclosing classified information about a top-secret US spying program.
In May, Snowden was charged with espionage. Soon thereafter, he fled to Hong Kong to avoid being prosecuted. While US officials attempted to have him extradited, he decided to leave Hong Kong in June and head for Russia. The US sent Russia a request for Snowden’s extradition. However, since there is no US-Russia extradition treaty, Russia refused to hand Snowden over to US officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he saw no reason for his country to extradite Snowden. However, he indicated that Snowden’s asylum requires that he refrain from leaking information that could be detrimental to the US.
It is believed that Russia’s decision to grant Snowden asylum might sour Russia-US relations. However, Russia has been widely hailed for not bowing to the US. Generally, members of the public are on Snowden’s side as they believe that the US surveillance program violates their privacy. Many have described him as a hero. While he was in Hong Kong, a number of protesters showed their support for him and rejected the US surveillance program.