Washington has assured Russia that Edward Snowden will not be executed if sent back home, but Moscow has reiterated its refusal to deport the whistleblower.
In a letter to his Russian counterpart, Attorney General Eric Holder said he was ready to provide guarantees that Mr. Snowden would not face the death penalty and would not be subject to torture when he stands trial in the U.S., the Russian Justice Ministry revealed on Tuesday.
Mr. Holder also promised to issue Mr. Snowden a limited validity passport to travel to the U.S.
“We understand from press reports and prior conversations between our governments that Mr. Snowden believes that he is unable to travel out of Russia and must, therefore, take steps to legalise his status. That is not accurate; he is able to travel,” a Russian Justice Ministry official quoted Mr. Holder as saying in his letter.
The U.S. revoked his passport when the 30-year-old former CIA analyst arrived in Moscow on June 23 on the way from Hong Kong to Latin America. He has since been stranded in the international transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport. Two weeks ago, Mr. Snowden applied for asylum in Russia.
The head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, told reporters on Tuesday that “there is no progress so far on Snowden’s request for temporary asylum.”
Mr. Holder’s letter did not contain a request for Mr. Snowden’s extradition or eviction, probably because these issues fall within the purview of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Russia.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said last week that Washington “is not asking for 'extradition,' but simply the return of Mr. Snowden.”
The Russian Justice Ministry said on Tuesday that it had replied to the U.S. Attorney General’s letter, but would not give any details.
However, the Justice Ministry’s press service said that Russia cannot extradite Mr. Snowden because there is no such thing as “forced eviction” in international law. It further clarified that the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport legally is not Russian territory and there is no time limit to Mr. Snowden’s stay in the area.