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MOSCOW – The father of U.S. spy agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has appeared on Russian television for the first time to thank the Kremlin for keeping his son safe.
Lon Snowden told state-owned Rossiya 24 channel: “If it were me, I would stay in Russia and that’s what I hope my son will do.”
“I feel Russia has the strength and resolve and convictions to protect my son,” he added.
Snowden senior said he hoped to visit his son in Moscow in the future.
“My son is a principled young man. He is a man of courage, and what he saw he couldn’t live with,” he said.
“I know that I have raised him to do the right thing. Sometimes the right thing means personal sacrifice, and that’s what he did.”
Edward Snowden has been trapped in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23 intending to fly to Cuba.
He was prevented from doing so when U.S. authorities revoked his passport, pitching the Kremlin into a diplomatic confrontation with the White House, which wants to extradite Snowden on espionage charges.
Snowden, who initially voiced hopes of finding asylum in South America, has made one semi-public appearance since then. On July 12 he appeared at a meeting with Russian legislators and human rights representatives, where he asked Russia to grant him asylum. His formal application was submitted on July 16.
President Putin has said Russia will only grant asylum on the condition that Snowden “stop harming America.” Snowden initially refused to adhere to this before conceding to the demand, on the grounds that he did not believe his actions in exposing extensive worldwide telephone and Internet eavesdropping by the U.S. National Security Agency was harming American interests.
Russia has yet to grant the asylum request, and Snowden has returned to relative obscurity behind the walls of the airport’s transit zone.
Wednesday’s Rossiya 24 broadcast was the first time Snowden’s father had spoken directly to the Russian people.
In comments directed to his son, Snowden senior said: “Your family is well and we love you,” adding, “I hope to see you soon, but most of all, I want you to be safe.”
After the broadcast, Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said he was making arrangements for the father to travel to Moscow.
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