"The immigration authorities should grant his request considering his difficult situation," human rights lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.

U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for “temporary asylum” in Russia, a human rights lawyer revealed.

“I have helped Snowden file his application with Federal Migration Service staff in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian news agencies on Tuesday.

Mr. Snowden cited fears for his life as his reason for seeking asylum in Russia.

“He is being persecuted by the U.S. government, and he wrote, I quote, that he fears for his life and his safety, fears that he may be subjected to torture and capital punishment,” the Russian lawyer said.

“The immigration authorities should grant his request considering his difficult situation,” he added.

It may take the Federal Migration Service up to three months to consider Mr. Snowden’s application, but within five days he may be given special permission to leave the airport and move around Russia freely, experts said.

Russian law envisages three different forms of asylum – political asylum, refugee status and temporary asylum. While political asylum enables a person to stay indefinitely in Russia, temporary asylum is given for one year and may be extended for the same period unlimited number of times. All three forms of asylum guarantee against eviction from Russia.

“If Snowdon is granted temporary asylum, he will be able to live and work in Russia like any other residents,” Mr. Kucherena said.

The Russian lawyer said Mr. Snowden had no immediate plans to move on to another country.

“He probably has not yet taken a final decision,” Mr. Kucherena said.

Mr. Snowden has been stranded at Sheremetyevo Airport for more than three weeks as U.S. authorities cancelled his passport while he was transiting Moscow on the way from Hong Kong to Cuba.

Last Friday, the 30-year-old ex-CIA analyst called a group of Russian rights activists and lawyers to Sheremetyevo’s transit zone to ask them for assistance in receiving temporary asylum in Russia till the time he can move on to Latin America, his preferred asylum destination. Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered to give Mr. Snowden shelter.

It is the second time Mr. Snowden has asked for Russian asylum. He retracted his initial appeal after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he could stay in Russia on condition that “he must stop his work aimed at harming our U.S. partners.”

However, the fugitive American changed his mind again when it became clear that he could not travel safely to Latin America. The risk of his flight being intercepted by U.S. fighter jets grew very real after the plane of Bolivian President Eva Morales was forced to land in Austria on the way from Moscow a week ago and was searched on suspicion that Mr. Snowden was on board.

Mr. Snowden told the Russian public figures that he was willing to comply with the Kremlin’s terms for staying in Russia.

A senior Russian lawmaker said Mr. Snowden may be refused asylum if he breaks his word.

“Russia will reject Snowden’s asylum request if he continues publishing his disclosures,” said Alexander Lebedev, deputy Speaker of the State Duma, the Russian Parliament’s lower house.

More In: World | International | News