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Snowden asks for political asylum in Russia

July 02, 2013, 11:08 UTC+3

Initially, the Federal Migration Service denied Edward Snowden's request for political asylum

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On Monday, former CIA staffer Edward Snowden, wanted by the U.S. authorities for the theft of government information and divulging U.S. intelligence secrets to the world, filed a request for political asylum in Russia. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin named the condition under which Russia could grant Snowden's request.

"At 22:30, Moscow time, on Monday, British national Sarah Harrison contacted the consulate office at the Sheremetyevo airport. She introduced herself as a lawyer and authorized representative of U.S. citizen Snowden. She passed Snowden's request to grant him political asylum in Russia,"on-duty consulate official Kim Shevchenko said. He added that he had personally taken a package of documents from Harrison, got in touch with the Russian Foreign Ministry and dispatched the documents by courier, the Komsomolskaya Pravda writes.

Initially, the Federal Migration Service denied Edward Snowden's request for political asylum, but sources in Russian law-enforcement bodies specified that in case he applied, his application would be reviewed even in the absence of passport or other ID document, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta notes. However, getting political asylum in Russia in not that easy. It requires the consent of not only the Federal Migration Service, but also the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service.

The Izvestia reports on the statement made by Vladimir Putin on Monday, as he was speaking at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. Separately, the president underlined that the rumors alleging that Snowden was an agent of Russian secret services did not correspond to reality, the newspaper said. However, he confirmed that Russia did not intend to extradite Snowden to the USA which had already opened several criminal cases again him.

“Russia never hands anybody over anywhere and doesn’t intend to do so. Nobody ever gave anyone up to us, you know it well," Putin said, “at best, we exchanged our Foreign Intelligence Service agents for those who were detained and arrested and convicted in a Russian Federation court.”

However, Putin did not officially invite Snowden to stay in Russia.

"If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips," the newspaper cited Putin as saying.

The experts polled by the Kommersant believe that Edward Snowden's actions do not look unexpected, as they have become a logical consequence of the deadlock in which he found himself.

"After flying to the Sheremetyevo airport, Snowden actually found himself in a situation where he is a cornered person. As the matter stands know, Russia seems to be the only country in the world ready to go for a conflict with the USA in the dispute over the future of the fugitive American. This circumstance was decisive in Snowden's decision, director of the Moscow Carnegie center Dmitry Trenin told the newspaper. In his opinion, the spat will not dramatically worsen Russian-U.S. relations, yet it may strengthen the trend toward scaling them down.

In its editorial, the Nezavismaya Gazeta writes that Snowden bewildered Russia. In the newspaper's opinion, there is not good solution for Moscow in the story with the U.S. fugitive.

"Hand Snowden over to the Americans? muses the newspaper, "Rights activists and a considerable portion of the mass media sympathizing with the former CIA employee will take a very negative stance. Grant him asylum or let go to Ecuador? Nobody will see a principled substantive position in it; they will certainly regard it as an anti-American gesture. The solution of the problem is being delayed. It is as if Russia has been put on a narrow bed, and it is tossing and turning trying to make itself comfortable."


Russian Academy of Sciences reform causes public outcry


The unexpected reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences /RAS/ recently announced by the government caused quite a stir, and drew criticism from academicians in the first place. Speaker of the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament Sergei Naryshkin stated on Monday that the RAS reform bill would not be adopted in package in the near future. The first reading is due on Tuesday, and the final voting is scheduled for the autumn. At the same time, the Communist faction at the State Duma is initiating a vote of no-confidence in the government in connection with the RAS reform scandal.

On Monday, only negative opinions of the bill were coming from RAS. Its Far Eastern branch demanded the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. Also, it turned out that there was no need to hurry the passage of the government-proposed bill on RAS restructuring, merging it with other academies or changing the management mechanism responsible for research funding. After a meeting of the State Duma council, speaker Sergei Naryshkin confirmed that the first reading would take place on July 3 and that it would be followed by a pause. According to the speaker, the final approval of the RAS reform plan is postponed to the autumn. In the meantime, various proposals on improving the bill will be put up for discussion.

As for the Communist faction, the RAS reform became a pretext for announcing a vote of no-confidence in the government. The Communists will be gathering lawmakers' signatures until the end of this week, while the issue of no-confidence will be broached in September once the lawmakers return from the holiday. As the Kommersant notes, there have been no such attempts for eight years.

The Kommersant also notes that the government bill had encountered serious resistance as scientists across the whole country promised to stage protests. The presidium of RAS's Far Eastern branch demanded Cabinet resignation, with its scientists blasting the government’s actions as "irresponsible, cynical and doomed to failure." For its part, RAS's Siberian branch saw a connection between the reform with "the obvious failure" of the Rosnano and Skolkovo projects, describing it as "an attempt to avoid responsibility for the failure of these projects and misuse of large federal budget funds."

Other parties did not support the Communists' initiatives, the RBK Daily notes. "These are emotions. Let them initiate, let them present arguments; we'll see," A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said.

The government took the news about the demand for its resignation with a touch of humor. "It's a good example of democracy," Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets said.

Leader of the United Russia faction Vladimir Vasilyev regretted the Opposition faction's taking a radically negative position toward the proposed legislation "without looking into the matter," the Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. United Russia has a different approach: "while stating claims to the education minister over the ongoing reform, having taken it under control and bearing responsibility, we nevertheless support this decision. And we state it openly, so that politics could indeed be public."

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