The father of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has arrived in Moscow. Lon Snowden's flight touched down at Sheremetyevo Airport - where his son famously spent five weeks in transit limbo before receiving asylum in Russia.
The plane carrying Lon Snowden landed in Moscow Thursday morning, RT crew on the scene reported.
Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena has been seen in the terminal accompanying Lon Snowden. The two came out to speak to the media after finishing with legalities, although the appearance was brief, because Lon Snowden was tired after his flight.
Snowden senior was vague about when he would see his son, only saying that he hopes that it will happen soon.
He voiced doubt that his son may ever return to America, although the decision would be his to make. He added that his role as the whistleblower is likely finished and Edward is of no further use as a source of information about NSA spy programs.
“I have no idea what his intentions are, but ever since he has been in Russia, my understanding is that he has simply been trying to remain healthy and safe and he has nothing to do with future stories,” Lon Snowden said.
Kucherena stressed that Lon Snowden is staying in Russia as his guest and pledged to provide accommodation, security and other things necessary to make his stay as comfortable as possible.
The lawyer added that some other relatives of Edward Snowden may come to visit Russia too, but would not disclose any details.
Lon Snowden said he feels “extreme gratitude” that his son
is safe, secure and free thanks to Russia.
Edward Snowden has not been seen anywhere at the airport and apparently has not come to meet his father for security reasons.
The issue of personal safety was reiterated later on Thursday.
“There were four to five cars chasing us [from the airport]. We don’t really know who they were,” the lawyer said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television.
“I understand that there is
great interest, but I’d like to stress that there is the issue of
Edward’s safety here. So even though everyone wants to know where
the father will meet the son, his safety is paramount for
us,” he added.
Lon Snowden arrived in Russia months after he was expected to do so. But now he has a multiple-entry Russian visa and can come and leave freely, he said in the interview.
He said he expects Edward to stay in Russia for a long time, expecting that his good education and talent would allow him to find a well-paid job. The younger Snowden, as far as his father knows, is not currently seeking asylum in any other country.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, came to global prominence after a series of publications on massive surveillance by the US government and its allies started in May. The reports were largely based on leaked documents which Snowden handed over to journalists.
While the intelligence community and numerous politicians and officials regard Snowden as traitor, he is viewed as an idealistic whistleblower and defender of privacy by many people in the world. He has been nominated for several high profile human rights awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the European Sakharov Prize.
Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia in August after he became stranded in the country due to the withdrawal of his American passport by US authorities. Washington wants him to be handed over for a trial on espionage charges and pressured several countries, which voiced their intention to harbor the fugitive. Moscow’s decision is one of several points of contention between Russia and the US.