Edward Snowden, continuing his confounding dance around the expectations of the international media, won’t be leaving the Moscow airport after all. In a confusing series of developments, Wednesday began with the news that Snowden had been issued the preliminary document that would allow him to leave Sheremetyevo airport. Then, his lawyer denied that he would be imminently departing. For now, he appears to be staying put. The Russian media, meanwhile, is having a field day with the spectacle, gleefully blaming the United States for the entire debacle.
With the United States insisting that Russia extradite Snowden to the United States, officials in Moscow blanketed the Russian press with allegations that they would be willing to play along — if only the United States lived up to its own obligations. "I would not want to put our American partners in an uncomfortable position, but if they say such things, and we are forced to publicly say that it is Washington in the past categorically rejected numerous Russian proposals to conclude an extradition treaty," a source in the Russian foreign ministry told the Interfax news agency.
The new line, then, from Moscow is that it is in fact the United States’ fault that Russia is unable to extradite Snowden. If only the United States had been more willing to entertain Russian extradition requests, they lament, Russia would not find itself in the regrettable position of having to shelter Snowden. "Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to," a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry said Monday.
Meanwhile, one of the Russian state-owned news agencies, ITAR-TASS, is quick to remind its readers that Russians are broadly supportive of allowing Snowden to stay. Reporting on Snowden staying at Sheremetyevo, the agency comments that "the U.S. government keeps insisting on Snowden’s extradition" despite the fact that "most Russians think that Moscow should not extradite Snowden to the United States." The agency cites a July 14 poll finding that 39 percent of Russians oppose extradition and that 27 percent think he should be granted asylum. Surprisingly, 59 percent of the poll’s respondents don’t know who Snowden is.
By the looks of it, Snowden may be gearing up for a longer stay in Russia. "He is not planning to leave for now. He asked for temporary asylum, which in the case of a positive decision is granted for a term of one year," Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Wednesday. "Currently his final country of destination is Russia." To prepare him for an extended stay, Kucharena brought his client some Russia-appropriate reading, including Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and works by Chekhov.
As if the Snowden saga wasn’t bizarre enough already, Kucharena said he had chosen Crime and Punishment because he thought it crucial Snowden become acquainted with the novel’s central character, Raskolnikov. That character, of course, murders a pawnbroker in the belief that he transcends ordinary standards of morality in the service of a greater good. By the novel’s end, Raskolnikov loses his mind and ends up in a Siberian penal colony. Is this the future Kucharena imagines for his client?
Judging by the interview below with Kucharena on RT, he looks to have a sense of humor. Perhaps it’s all an elaborate joke.
Keep watching this space for the next time Snowden becomes compared to one of the great sociopathic characters of Russian literature.