Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the United States on espionage charges, has requested temporary asylum in Russia, a Russian lawyer said on Tuesday.
Snowden hopes to find refuge in Latin America after leaking details of U.S. government surveillance programmes but has been unable to get there since arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong on June 23.
"He reached the conclusion that he needs to write an application for temporary asylum (in Russia), and his procedure has just been done," said Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer who met Snowden on Friday with human rights activists.
Kucherena, who says he has been advising Snowden, did not make clear how the American had filed his application or whether it had already reached the Russian authorities.
Snowden, who is holed up in Sheremetyevo's transit area, said on Friday that he would seek refuge in Russia only until he is able to travel on to Latin America, where three countries have offered him political asylum.
He said he had to do this because the United States and its allies were preventing him reaching Latin America. The United States has revoked Snowden's passport and urged nations worldwide not to help him reach an asylum destination.
Kucherena said he expects a decision on Snowden's asylum request "soon". The process for seeking temporary asylum is different from that for political asylum, which Kucherena said would require a decree from President Vladimir Putin.