Edward Snowden’s temporary Russian visa expired today.
Snowden bolted to Moscow after numerous countries rejected his request for asylum one year ago. At the last minute, Russian president Vladimir Putin granted the former National Security Agency systems administrator a one year visa. He’s been in Moscow and its suburbs ever since.
Now the visa has expired. And the question is, what happens next?
It’s anybody’s guess. Snowden revealed in a recent interview with the Guardian newspaper that he had reached out through back channels to U.S. officials about the possibility of returning to the States if he was guaranteed a fair trial. Snowden said that guarantee was not given.
This may have been bluster. A former high-level intelligence official told VentureBeat Tuesday that he had no knowledge of a request having been made. If Snowden did reach out, it was likely to the Justice or State Department. The official said that, had a request been made, it would have been brought to his attention.
Russian attorney Anatoly Kucherena is Snowden’s Moscow lawyer and also acts as his spokesperson. Kucherena said in an interview with Russian media Thursday that Snowden had been granted not a visa or political asylum but a “temporary leave to remain in Russia.”
Either way, Snowden is still wanted by U.S. authorities on espionage charges. Snowden is accused of illicitly downloading over a million NSA files that disclosed some of the agency’s most covert intelligence collection efforts. These efforts included siphoning data from Google, Apple, Twitter, and Facebook. The release of the top secret files caused a global firestorm that still continues to reverberate.
An American attorney who has worked on behalf of Snowden, Jesselyn Radack, told Australian radio that Snowden misses home. Snowden, 31, is originally from Maryland.
“I know ultimately he would love to be able to come home, or seek refuge in a country of his choice,” she said.
Not much is known about Snowden’s time in Russia. Former KGB major general Oleg Kalugin told VentureBeat that Snowden is now working for the Russian security service, the FSB, as a technical consultant and that he likely cooperated with his Russian hosts in order to stay in the country.