MOSOCW, Russia – The father of American fugitive National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden Thursday arrived at the Sheremetyevo International Airport to meet his son living in asylum in Russia.
Lonnie Snowden’s flight landed shortly before dawn at the Moscow airport where his son was holed up for over five weeks before he was given asylum in Russia.
The former IT government contractor who blew the whistle about information on NSA spy programmes is wanted in the US for leaking details of government electronic surveillances.
Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena was at the terminal to receive the senior Snowden.
The two briefly spoke with journalists at the airport.
The senior Snowden said he had not had any direct contact with his but that he felt “extreme gratitude that (he) is safe and secure and he’s free.”
He was vague about when he would see his son and also if Edward Snowden would ever return to the US.
Defending his son’s actions and calling him a “whistle-blower” who is “not leaking information”, the father said: “I don’t think the American public knows all the details of what my son did”.
“I have no idea what (Edward’s) intentions are but ever since he has been in Russia my understanding is that he has simply been trying to remain healthy and safe and he has nothing to do with future stories.”
He thanked the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin for grating asylum to his son.
“I consider Edward to be absolutely safe in Russia. He is comfortable here,” he said.
The senior Snowden has received a visa for multiple entries into the country. “I hope to return to Russia many times,” he said.
Lawyer Kucherena said that the senior Snowden will stay in Russia as his guest. He said he was bound to provide accommodation, security and other things necessary to make his stay as comfortable as possible.
He said that some of their other relatives may come to visit Russia too, but disclosed no details.
Edward Snowden was not seen anywhere at the airport and apparently had not come to meet his father for security reasons.
The former NSA contractor shot to global limelight after a series of publications on massive surveillance by the US government and its allies started in May. The reports were largely based on leaked documents which Snowden handed over to journalists.
Though the US intelligence community and various politicians view him as a traitor, Edward Snowden has been hailed as an idealistic whistleblower and defender of privacy by many people in the world.
He has been nominated for several high profile human rights awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the European Sakharov Prize.
The younger Snowden is wanted by the US on espionage and theft charges for which he needs to stand trial in America.
The Andrei Sakharov Prize, which honours figures who stand up to oppressive powers, was awarded to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai Thursday.
“Edward took the Sakharov prize nomination very calmly,” Lon Snowden told reporters at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
“He wanted to expose the injustices in the American system, and wasn’t doing it with any awards in mind.”