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MOSCOW -- A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden says the National Security Agency leaker has received asylum in Russia for one year and left the transit zone of Moscow's airport.
Anatoly Kucherena said he handed over the papers to Snowden on Thursday. He said Snowden left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport where he was stuck since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.
Kucherena said that Snowden's whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons.
The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the request.
Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition.
Snowden's efforts to leak classified documents released information regarding two top-secret government programs used by the government to monitor individuals and businesses.
One of them is a phone records monitoring program in which the NSA gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the U.S. The Obama administration says the NSA program does not listen to actual conversations.
Separately, an Internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage — audio, video, photographs, emails and searches. The effort is designed to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
Snowden said claims the programs are secure are not true.
The Guardian reported that Snowden was working in an NSA office in Hawaii when he copied the last of the documents he planned to disclose and told supervisors that he needed to be away for a few weeks to receive treatment for epilepsy.
He left for Hong Kong on May 20, presumably to escape law enforcement in the United States. Snowden is quoted as saying he chose that city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed it was among the spots on the globes that could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government.
Soon after, Snowden flew to Moscow, Russia and took shelter at that country's airport.
Snowden is quoted as saying he hopes the publicity the leaks have cause will provide him some protection and that he sees asylum, perhaps in Iceland, as a possibility.
"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets," Snowden told the newspaper.
He was said to have worked on IT security for the CIA and by 2007, was stationed with diplomatic cover in Geneva, responsible for maintaining computer network security. That gave him clearance to a range of classified documents, according to the report.
"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says. "I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”