U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted asylum in Russia and left the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for an undisclosed “safe location”.
Mr. Snowden left the airport soon after his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena handed him temporary asylum papers on Tuesday.
“He left the airport for a safe location,” Mr. Kucherena said adding that Mr. Snowden’s whereabouts will not be disclosed for security reasons.
“He is the most wanted person in the world today. Security is a very serious matter for him,” Mr. Kucherena told reporters.
Mr. Snowden (30), a former CIA employee and NSA contractor had been stuck at Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23, when he arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. However, he could not continue his journey as U.S. authorities revoked his passport.
The U.S. has asked Russia to send Mr. Snowden back home for trial on charges for espionage, but has not sent a formal extradition request. President Vladimir Putin has refused to hand him over.
The asylum status will protect Mr Snowden from extradition.
“A person granted temporary asylum cannot be returned against his will to the country of his citizenship or his residence,” a law enforcement official told the Itar-Tass news agency.
Mr. Kucherena, who assisted Mr. Snowden in getting asylum, said he would now help arrange his father’s visit to Russia soon for reunion with his son.
“They will decide between them where in Russia Edward will live,” the lawyer added.
The asylum status allows Mr. Snowden to live and work in Russia for one year and can be extended indefinitely on a yearly basis.
The former computer expert has already received a job offer from Russia’s popular social network, VKontakte.
“We invite Edward to St. Petersburg and would be happy if he joins the star-studded VKontakte team of software writers,” the network’s head Pavel Durov wrote on his page. “Maybe he’ll find it interesting to protect the safety of personal data of millions of our users.”