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NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek refuge outside the United States hit hurdles Tuesday, after Russian media reported he canceled his asylum bid in Russia and several European countries said such applications wouldn’t be considered if they were made from abroad.
Russian news agencies Tuesday quoted President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Snowden withdrew his request when he learnt about the terms Moscow has set out. Putin said on Monday that Russia is ready to shelter Snowden as long as he stops leaking U.S. secrets.
At the same time, Putin said he had no plans to turn over Snowden to the United States.
Meanwhile several of the other countries where the WikiLeaks says Snowden has applied for asylum have said he cannot apply from abroad. Officials in Germany, Norway, Austria, Poland, Finland and Switzerland all said he must make his request on their soil.
WikiLeaks said requests have also been made to Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain and Venezuela.
The asylum requests reported by WikiLeaks and the Snowden statement could not be independently authenticated.
WikiLeaks also posted a statement attributed to Snowden on its website late Monday, in which he slams President Barack Obama for “using citizenship as a weapon.”
“Although I am convicted of nothing, (the United States) has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” Snowden says in the statement. “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
“Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
Snowden, who has been on the run since releasing sensitive NSA documents, is believed to have been in Moscow airport’s transit zone since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.
WikiLeaks legal adviser Sarah Harrison delivered the requests for asylum to an official at the Russian consulate at the Moscow airport on Sunday, according to the group that has adopted Snowden and his cause.
The U.S. has annulled Snowden’s passport, and Ecuador, where he had initially hoped to get asylum, has been giving mixed signals about offering him shelter.
The expanded requests for asylum come as the Obama administration contends with European allies angry about the release of documents that alleged U.S. eavesdropping on European Union diplomats.
Obama said Monday that the U.S. would provide allies with information about new reports that the NSA had bugged EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. But he also suggested such activity by governments would hardly be unusual.
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