Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked National Security Agency information, apparently does not have the pass he needs in order to leave the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
“Snowden started passing through passport control, but some important documents were lacking, and he had to stay in the transit zone for at least another day,” a Federal Migration Service official told the Los Angeles Times. “Snowden doesn’t have a valid passport, and he needs a whole set of different papers to cross the border into Russia.”
Earlier on Wednesday, reports in Russian media said that migration officials issued the document allowing Snowden to leave the airport transit zone, but his lawyer had advised him to stay put.
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It's not clear whether he was issued a pass and then prevented from leaving by some last-minute political intervention or if he never received the correct documents, the Globe & Mail reported.
Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, visited the American at the Moscow airport on Wednesday, bringing him fresh underwear, shirts and the novel “Crime and Punishment” by 19th century writer Fyodor Dostoevsky and short stories by Anton Chekhov.
Kucherena said migration officials are still looking into his asylum request.
"He asked for temporary asylum, which in the case of a positive decision, is granted for a term of one year," Kucherena said. "Currently his final country of destination is Russia."
He also noted that Snowden "intends to stay in Russia, study Russian culture."
The Federal Migration Service has "a period of seven days" to provide Snowden with confirmation that his request for temporary asylum has been received, which would allow him to "leave the airport and move about freely," Kucherena said.
His request was filed on Tuesday.
The service then "has a period of up to three months" to approve or deny the asylum request. Kucherena says Snowden has a good chance of receiving asylum, but that a rejection to his request could be appealed in the courts.
Washington said on Wednesday that it is "seeking clarity" from Moscow about Snowden's status.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the Obama administration has made clear to the Russians that it wants Snowden sent home to face espionage charges. He added that there was no information about how the latest news would affect President Barack Obama's plans to visit Russia in September.
Snowden has been stuck in the Moscow airport since June 23, when he arrived on a commercial flight from Hong Kong.
The 30-year-old ex-contractor has been offered asylum in a number of Latin American countries, but says he must first receive asylum in Russia in order to travel because the United States cancelled his passport.
Snowden left the United States after he revealed the NSA's massive surveillance of Americans' phone records and online data, which has been deemed an unwarranted invasion of privacy by some lawmakers and privacy advocates.
Other revelations have also come to light since Snowden leaked the NSA documents, including the fact that US intelligence agencies have been spying on Latin American politicians, businesses, diplomatic missions and EU offices.