MOSCOW --As of Saturday, Edward Snowden had not yet formally applied for political asylum in Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“We are not in contact with Edward Snowden,” Lavrov said in televised remarks during a visit to Kyrgyzstan, a post-Soviet Central Asian republic.
“Russian legislation provides for a certain procedure the first step in which is an official application to the Federal Migration Service.”
On Friday, Snowden, the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency who revealed Washington’s secret efforts to track international communications, summoned Russian human rights activists and lawyers to Sheremetyevo International Airport here to render him assistance in gaining asylum in Russia.
The White House reacted strongly to the meeting, accusing the Russian government of providing Snowden with a platform to spew propaganda, despite its previous declarations of neutrality.
Snowden cannot be expected to file an official request over the weekend, said Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who was among those meeting with Snowden on Friday and who confirmed that he is ready to assist him with the required papers.
“I am waiting for him to send me some information via email so that we could start working on his request,” Kucherena said in an interview with the Times. “Besides being in a very difficult situation without a valid passport and a possibility to even get out of the airport transit zone Snowden knows nothing about Russian laws and should be guided how to officially apply for asylum.”
“I care nothing about politics but I know that I must help this man,” Kucherena added. The procedure may take a while but the final say will belong to President Vladimir Putin, the lawyer said.
If Russia granted aslyum, Kucherena said, Snowden could apply for citizenship in five years.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have indicated they would consider granting an asylum request from Snowden, who, according to Russian officials, withdrew an earlier request for asylum because of Putin’s demand that he stop leaking information harmful to the U.S.