MOSCOW: Fugitive former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday after Russia granted him refugee status, ending more than a month in limbo in the transit area.
A lawyer who has been assisting Snowden said the young American, who is wanted in the United States for leaking details of secret government intelligence programmes, had left the airport for a secure location which would remain secret.
"Edward Snowden has successfully acquired refugee status in Russia," the anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks, which is also assisting Snowden, confirmed on Twitter.
His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told state television: "I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location ... Security is a very serious matter for him."
Snowden, 30, arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23. He had hoped to fly to Latin America, where three countries have offered to shelter him, but was concerned that the United States would prevent him reaching his destination.
Snowden's case has caused new strains in relations between Russia and the United States which wants him extradited to face espionage charges.