WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has warned former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that leaving Russia could be dangerous, even with his new residence permit.
Speaking via videoconference to an audience at a freedom of speech convention in Mexico City, Assange said that Snowden could face threats to his physical well-being if he decides to leave Russia.
“Of course our advice is that he be extremely cautious in doing so for his physical security," the WikiLeaks founder said, according to AFP.
As RT reported, Snowden was officially granted a residence permit from Russia earlier on Thursday. Effective August 1, the permit will last for three years and allows Snowden to travel anywhere within Russia, as well as beyond the country’s borders for up to three months.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, noted that the former NSA employee would be able to apply for Russian citizenship in five years, though he has not made a decision on that front.
On the subject of Snowden’s security, Kucherena said that a private firm is in charge of his detail, adding that he will not benefit from state protection due to the “many bureaucratic procedures” required to obtain it.
Assange himself is familiar with taking precautions to ensure his “physical safety,” as he has been holed up within the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than two years now. The 42-year-old is wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations that he sexually assaulted two women in 2010.
Sweden issued a warrant for his extradition over the allegations in 2012, but Assange – who has denied all the charges – was awarded political asylum and has now spent 778 days inside the embassy. London police have staged a 24-hour stakeout of the premises, and are ready to arrest Assange immediately should he ever leave the building. Assange is also worried that by going to Sweden, he would open himself up to extradition to the United States – which is upset over WikiLeaks’ decision to leak diplomatic cables back in 2010.
As for the possibility that Snowden may be extradited to the US, Kucherena dismissed the possibility outright, saying it would not happen because Snowden doesn’t face any charges inside Russia.
“No extradition is possible under Russian law,” he said. “He has not committed any crime. He faces no charges in Russia.”
“By all means he is homesick," he added. "It was hard for him to find himself far from home, especially for the first time. Of course, in the future Edward will make up his mind on whether to stay in Russia and apply for citizenship or to leave for the US [on his own terms]. He hasn’t done this yet.”