Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence worker wanted for revealing the National Security Agency's secret program to collect American phone and internet records, left a Moscow airport Thursday after weeks waiting for his asylum request to be granted, his lawyer told Russian media outlets.
Attorney Anatoly Kucherena appeared on Russian television and said Snowden had been granted asylum in Russia for one year, showing a scanned copy of an official document to media. Snowden was in a safe place, according to Kucherena, who said he would not reveal the location for security reasons.
Snowden left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport at around 7:30 a.m. Eastern according to the lawyer. He had been staying in the airport's transit zone since arriving from Hong Kong June 23.
CBS News Moscow bureau chief Svetlana Berdnikova said Snowden left the airport in a taxi, avoiding the media on his way out. Kucherena said Wednesday he was going to help the NSA leaker's father, Lon Snowden, get a visa to travel to Russia and see his son.
In separate interviews broadcast on Wednesday, Lon Snowden praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin for protecting his son, who has been labeled a traitor by many politicians in the United States for revealing the top-secret data-monitoring program. The elder Snowden said he hoped to visit Russia to see his son.
According to Russian immigration law, with asylum Snowden has the same rights as any other citizen of the Russian Federation.
Secret-spilling website WikiLeaks, which has rallied to Snowden's support and provided legal assistance to him for weeks, tweeted Thursday that its representative in Sarah Harrison was with him when he left the airport.
WikiLeaks said in another tweet that "Snowden's welfare has been continuously monitored by WikiLeaks staff since his presence in Hong Kong."