Snowden flew into Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 and applied for temporary asylum in Russia on July 16. 

Snowden has said he will not engage in anti-US activities if his application for temporary asylum in Russia is accepted, according to high-profile Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.

Kucherena said the papers had been filed and Snowden had written that he is afraid of torture and the death penalty in the US.

"I put a direct question to him: will you meet the condition for asylum that the Russian president has set for you? He answered to this, I will meet this condition," Anatoly Kucherena told Interfax.

He is awaiting a decision by the Russian Federal Migration Service.

He expects to be granted papers by Wednesday that will allow him to leave the Moscow airport and legally exit into the Russian city.

"He should get this certificate (allowing him to leave the airport) shortly," Mr Kucherena said.

Whitsleblower award

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has become the winner of this year’s Whistleblower Award established by German human rights organizations, the German branch of Transparency International said in a statement.

“This year’s winner of the Whistleblower Award is Edward Snowden,” the statement posted on TI Germany website said.

The award, established in 1999, is sponsored by the Association of German Scientists (VDW) and the German branch of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).

The leaks

In May, Snowden, an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the National Security Agency (NSA), flew into Hong Kong from Hawaii, carrying four laptop computers with data from some of the US government's most highly-classified secrets.

In June, the Guardian newspaper published a story based on Snowden's information revealing that the US government had forced the telecoms giant Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of Americans.

He then disclosed that the NSA was running was widely tapping internet data globally under a programme called PRISM and that the UK’s surveillance agency, GCHA, had access to it under a programme called Project Tempora.

PRISM

PRISM was first publicly revealed in the The Washington Post and The Guardian, based on allegations by Edward Snowden who had been a National Security Agency contractor. He alleged that the programme involved the widespread data-mining with the involvement of Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and AOL.

These reports have been vigorously denied by all the web companies.

Project Tempora

Snowden claims that Britain's signals monitoring centre has been tapping fibre optic cables in a data-harvesting scheme called Project Tempora. He alleges large volumes of data are drawn from fibre optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed.

It is claimed that the metadata collected by GCHQ - the information about what is being sent, to whom, from whom, when etc. - is being shared among the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprised of the US, U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Electronic surveillance is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in the UK, which bars intercepts without the permission of a government minister. However, a loophole allows for broad intercepts if any part of the communication is outside the UK, which any could be.

Moscow

On June 23 Snowden left Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow. The US had issued extradition papers for him to be returned from Hong Kong, but the Hong Kong government said the documents submitted by the US did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law" and it had no legal basis to prevent him leaving.

Snowden had been – apparently – living in the transit lounge area atSheremetyevo airport, Moscow ever since, although no independent sightings have been reported. The US has annulled his passport and he has no visa to enter Russian territory.

Russia’s President Putin said he would be free to enter Russia, provided he did not make further leaks.

“It is true that Mr Snowden arrived in Moscow, which was completely unexpected for us. He came as a transit passenger, so he didn’t need a visa or other documents. As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a plane ticket and go wherever he wants.

“However, he does not need a visa because he did not cross the state border. Therefore, any accusations against Russia are just nonsense. He is a transit passenger and remains in the transit hall. Our special services never worked with Mr Snowden and are not working with him now.

“As for his possible extradition, we can extradite foreign nationals only to those countries with which we have relevant international agreements on the extradition of criminals. We have no such agreement with the United States. Mr Snowden has committed no crimes in the Russian Federation.

“There is a similar case with Mr Assange, regarding whom we have also received extradition demands and who is also considered a criminal. Like Mr Snowden, he considers himself a human rights activist and fights for the freedom of information. Ask yourself this: should we extradite such people so that they can be imprisoned on not?

“In any case, I personally would prefer not to get involved in such cases. It’s like shearing a piglet: there’s a lot of squealing and very little wool. I would rather leave it to [FBI Director Robert] Mueller and [Russian Federal Security Service Director Alexander] Bortnikov to resolve this. I hope that it does not affect our business relations with the United States. And I hope that our partners will understand our position.

“Mr Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his travel destination, the better it will be for us and for him.”

Asylum requests

Snowden has since made asylum requests to 21 countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Russia, Norway and China. None has so far acceded to his request.

Bizarrely, he became the subject of further diplomatic manoeuvres when the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, left Moscow after a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). He had had talks with Putin when the two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation on hydrocarbon production. Morales also told Putin about the start of the talks with Russian Rosneft company to launch exploration projects in Bolivia.

Flight of fancy

As Morales’ aircraft, a Dassault Falcon 900ex, registered as FAB1 (and formerly owned by Manchester United FC), flew over Austria bound for the Canary Islands for refuelling June 2, the pilot was told that airspace over Italy, France, Spain and Portugal was denied.

It is alleged that the US had passed on information that Edward Snowden had left the transit lounge by some method and was on board Morales’ plane.

The pilot – unable to continue into Italian airspace – elected to do a u-turn just south of Saltzburg and requested to land in Vienna.

Morales said that, following the landing, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

Whilst on the ground, their passports were checked and it was confirmed that Snowden was not on the aircraft. This sparked a huge diplomatic row.

France later apologised for temporarily refusing entry to Morales's jet, with President Francois Hollande saying there was "conflicting information" about the plane passengers.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo denied, however, that his country closed its airspace to the Bolivian leader's plane, which resumed its journey on June 3 and refuelled in Las Palmas on the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands.

"What Spain said was that in no case was it going to restrict its airspace and that it would keep its authorisation in force so the plane could land and refuel in Las Palmas," Margallo said.

South American reaction

Bolivia's regional allies Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua reacted angrily to the jet incident.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua meanwhile described the diversion by saying: "This is an attack against President Morales's life."

"We express our solidarity with Evo and the brave Bolivian people. Our America cannot tolerate so much abuse," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa added on Twitter.

In La Paz, the presidential palace said protest rallies were already planned outside the embassies of the United States, France, Portugal and Italy.

Bolivia will file a complaint to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the Latin American country's envoy said.

CIA ordered airspace blockade

In a show of support, Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Desi Bouterse of Suriname met with Morales in the central city of Cochabamba.

At a rally before the meeting, Maduro claimed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had ordered France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to deny access to Morales's plane on Tuesday.

"A minister of one of these European governments personally told us by telephone that they were going to apologize because they were surprised, and that those who gave the order to aviation authorities in this country ... were the CIA," he said.

The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation released a statement putting the Russian position on the violation of the rights of presidents and diplomats to travel freely into very clear yet diplomatic terms: “The actions of the French, Spanish and Portuguese authorities could hardly be seen as friendly towards Bolivia and towards Russia, from which the Bolivian President Evo Morales was leaving upon completion of his Moscow visit. The refusal to grant the aircraft the right to overfly could create a threat to the security of its passengers, including the head of a sovereign state.”

"The president of a country is a person who enjoys international protection. In it actions at the United Nations, Russia will push for the strict compliance with international law guaranteeing the inviolability of such persons, and will not allow attacks on their persons, freedom or dignity,"said the Foreign Ministry.

(Voice of Russia, RIA Novosti, Interfax, AFP)