Edward Snowden's Father Sparks Media Frenzy Upon Arrival in Moscow
Lon Snowden, the father of fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has been in hiding in Russia since being granted temporary asylum by the Kremlin in August, sparked a media frenzy when he flew into Moscow hoping to see his son.
The elder Snowden was met by his son's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, before briefly talking with a group of Russian and foreign news crews at Sheremetyevo Airport's VIP Lounge on Thursday morning. He said he was in Russia to "learn more about my son's situation" and to know more of "his health and to discuss legal options."
There was no sign of his 30-year-old son, who spent five weeks holed up at the airport over the summer before agreeing to a stipulation by President Vladimir Putin to do no further harm to American interests as a condition for giving him refuge.
He has been living in hiding at a secret location in Russia, cared for by a team headed by his lawyer.
In remarks broadcast by RT.com, the Kremlin's international television channel, the elder Snowden said he was a guest of Kucherena and did not know what his specific plans were.
He repeatedly expressed his "extreme gratitude" to the Russian people and Putin for providing his son with the means to remain "safe, secure and free."
Insisting that his son was a "whistleblower" and not a criminal, he said that his son has played no further role in the story, since handing over information to journalists in Hong Kong last June.
"Since he has been in Russia, my understanding is that he has simply tried to remain healthy, safe and has had nothing to do with future stories," said Lon Snowden, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who lives in Virginia.
Insisting that he has had "no direct contact" with his son, Snowden said: "If the opportunity presents itself I certainly hope to see my son."
When one reporter asked if he would like to make a telephone call to his son then and there, he responded: "In front of the media? No, I'm sure that would make great theater, but I won't."
He refused to speculate about what his son might do in the future or offer his own opinions.
"I really have no idea what his intentions are," he said. "I'm not sure that my son will be returning to the U.S. That's his decision. He's an adult."
No time limit for Lon Snowden's visit to Moscow was announced on Thursday, but Russian media reported that he had been issued a multi-entry visa in August, meaning there is no bar to him coming and going.
In a studio interview aired later on Russian state channel Rossiya 24, Kucherena said that Lon Snowden was his guest and that he was responsible for providing him with security and a place to stay.
Edward Snowden would meet his father soon, he said, but the date and place would be kept secret.
He added that other members of Snowden's family, including his mother, might visit Russia later, but no decision had yet been made.
Kucherena stressed that security was a key concern.
"There were four or five cars chasing us [from the airport]. We don’t really know who they were," the lawyer said.
"I understand that there is great interest, but I’d like to stress that there is the issue of Edward’s safety here. So even though everyone wants to know where the father will meet the son, his safety is paramount for us."
The posse of cars to which Kucherena referred is highly likely to have been reporters. Journalists staked out the airport's transit area during the summer when Snowden was there and, when he finally emerged to give a brief statement before lawyers, human rights activists and a handful of Russian politicians, there was a media frenzy.