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US Lawmakers Seek Sanctions on Nations Helping Snowden

RIA Novosti

21:12 25/07/2013

WASHINGTON, July 25 (RIA Novosti) – US lawmakers on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a measure requiring the federal government to discuss possible sanctions against Russia or any other nation that provides asylum to fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who is currently holed up in a Moscow airport while seeking temporary refugee status in Russia.

The US Senate Appropriations Committee approved a State Department funding bill that included an amendment directing the US secretary of state to consult with congressional committees about possible sanctions for countries that grant asylum to Snowden, "including revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences," US media reported.

The amendment was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has proposed a series of punitive measures targeting Russia in recent weeks over its refusal to expel Snowden from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where Snowden has reportedly been living in a transit zone since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23.

Graham suggested earlier this month that the United States should consider boycotting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics if Russia gives asylum to Snowden. Last week he called on US President Barack Obama to consider proposing a new site for the September G20 Summit in St. Petersburg should Moscow refuse to assist in returning Snowden to the United States to face espionage charges.

Snowden, who faces prosecution in the United States for leaking highly sensitive classified data about the US National Security Agency's surveillance activities, submitted a request for temporary asylum in Russia last week.

Three Latin American countries have offered Snowden asylum: Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The status of Snowden's request for asylum in Russia was not immediately clear Thursday. Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer helping Snowden in his bid for temporary asylum, told reporters Wednesday that his application remains under consideration and that Snowden will remain in the transit zone in the meantime.

Kucherena's comments followed Russian media reports citing airport and migration officials in Moscow saying that Snowden had been issued a document allowing him to leave the airport zone.

US officials sought to clarify Snowden's status with Russia in the wake of the contradictory reports, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who discussed the matter Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

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