Snowden's father in Russia, hoping for reunion with son

MOSCOW (AFP) - The father of Edward Snowden on Thursday arrived in Moscow hoping to meet his son for the first time since the former US intelligence contractor became a fugitive, but still unaware of his whereabouts.

Lon Snowden arrived in Moscow on an early flight from New York and spoke to reporters at Sheremetyevo airport, where his son spent more than a month in transit limbo before Russia agreed to grant him temporary asylum in August.

In an apparently carefully-organised itinerary, he swiftly appeared on the state television channel Rossiya 24, looking tired and still wearing his airplane outfit of sweat pants and fleece jacket.

In comments heavily dubbed into Russian from English, he admitted he still did not know where his 30-year-old son, who leaked sensational details of US surveillance programmes, was staying.

Mr Edward Snowden's whereabouts have been a mystery ever since he was given asylum.

"It's really inappropriate for me to go into detail" of plans for meeting Edward Snowden, his father said.

Mr Lon Snowden said his plans in Russia would depend on his son's lawyer, Mr Anatoly Kucherena, with whom he is staying.

"I'm here to learn more about my son's situation," he told journalists at the airport. "My hope is to learn more about his circumstances and his health and to discuss legal options."

"If the opportunity presents itself, I certainly hope that I have the opportunity to see my son," he said in televised remarks.

He was met at the airport by Mr Kucherena, a pro-Kremlin public figure with ties to Russia's security agencies who has been the public's only source of information about Snowden's life in the past months. Mr Kucherena said he had met the fugitive leaker on Wednesday.

Mr Kucherena said Mr Snowden continues to live in secret for fear of being tracked down by the United States and relies on money donated to him through various organisations, but has had several job offers and may decide to take employment soon.

The former National Security Agency contractor is wanted by the US after revealing to the media details of massive domestic and foreign surveillance programmes operated by the secretive agency.

Mr Lon Snowden said he had had no direct contact with his son in recent months, adding: "I really have no idea what his intentions are.

"I'm not sure that my son will be returning to the US," he told journalists. "That's his decision, he's an adult."

He said he believed his son was not leaking information from Moscow, adding: "Edward Snowden, since he has been in Russia, is simply trying to remain healthy and safe.

"I have extreme gratitude that my son is safe, secure, and free" in Russia, he said, adding that he believed his son to be a "whistleblower" rather than a criminal.

Lon Snowden, a US Coast Guard veteran who lives in Pennsylvania, said he was travelling on a multi-entry Russian visa on his long-mulled visit.