Fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Friday told a group of activists in a meeting that he wanted to claim asylum in Russia because he is unable to fly to anywhere else, AFP reported.
Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina told the Interfax news agency that Snowden told participants “he wants to stay here” while public chamber state advisory body member Olga Kostina told ITAR-TASS that Snowden would request asylum in Russia.
The former U.S. National Security Agency contractor met around a dozen Russian rights activists, lawyers and other figures in a closed-door meeting at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, an official said, according to AFP.
"Thirteen people went into the meeting," Sheremetyevo spokesman Anna Zakharenkova told reporters at the airport.
Earlier, several campaigners told AFP they will attend the afternoon meeting after receiving an emailed invitation apparently from Snowden.
According to the invitation which was posted on social media by one activist, the fugitive wants to discuss his "next steps" as he seeks to escape U.S. authorities after leaking details of massive American intelligence surveillance.
In his message he thanked Latin American states for considering an application for asylum but denounced "an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum."
Snowden had made no public appearances since arriving at the state-controlled airport in the Russian capital on June 23. According to officials, he has spent the whole time in the airport transit zone but there has not been a single verifiable sighting of him.
Snowden has applied for asylum in 27 countries. Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have all expressed readiness to consider giving Snowden asylum.
President Vladimir Putin has vowed that Moscow will not extradite Snowden but also indicated the Kremlin is keen to see the back of a man who has added an additional problem to already strained relations with Washington.
On Friday, the Kremlin said that Snowden could stay in Russia if he stops issuing leaks that damage the United States.
"Mr. Snowden could hypothetically stay in Russia if he: first, completely stops the activities harming our American partners and U.S.-Russian relations and second, if he asks for this himself," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments quoted by Russian news agencies.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)