Edward Snowden has officially applied for the extension of his stay in Russia after his visa expires.
His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, confirmed that paperwork had been submitted to Russia’s Federal Migration Service.
The current document granting him temporary asylum expires on July 31.
Edward Snowden fled the US in May 2013 and has been living under temporary asylum in Russia. Last year, he fed a trove of secret intelligence to news outlets.
“We have gone through the procedure of getting temporary asylum… We have submitted documents for extending his stay in Russia,” Anatoly Kucherena told reporters on Wednesday.
The lawyer did not say for how long Edward Snowden wanted to stay in Russia, or whether he wanted to become a Russian citizen.
Edward Snowden has officially applied for the extension of his stay in Russia after his visa expires
Edward Snowden became stranded in the international airport at Moscow last year while travelling from Hong Kong to Cuba. He was in effect trapped in the airport’s transit zone for several weeks before the Russian government allowed him refugee status for a year.
He went to Russia shortly after leaking details of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) international surveillance and telephone-tapping operation.
Russia’s decision to give asylum to Edward Snowden – a former NSA contractor – was strongly criticized by the US.
Correspondents say that while Edward Snowden has in recent weeks increased his media visibility in Russia by giving several closely monitored interviews, he has conceded that he would like to go home, where he faces spying charges that could result in a substantial jail sentence.
News of his moves to extend his visa came as prosecutors in Germany searched the home of a defense ministry employee suspected of spying – the second such case in a week.
The US has not denied allegations that the intelligence agency employee arrested earlier this month was passing secret documents to the NSA.
The two countries, the biggest members of the NATO alliance, have been close allies for decades but relations were strained last year when it was revealed – from paperwork leaked by Edward Snowden – that the NSA had been monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone calls.
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Wal-Mart has sued Visa for $5 billion, alleging that the credit card company worked with large banks to fix the price of transaction fees it charged to the retailer.
The move comes after Wal-Mart opted out of a $5.7 billion settlement with Visa and MasterCard in December.
Wal-Mart and other US retailers, such as Target, objected to the terms of that agreement.
Visa had sued Wal-Mart in June 2013 to prevent the firm from filing a lawsuit.
Wal-Mart has sued Visa for $5 billion, alleging that the credit card company worked with large banks to fix the price of transaction fees it charged to the retailer
Wal-Mart, which is the world’s largest retailer, argues that Visa worked with large banks “to illegally fix the interchange fees and inflate the network fees that Wal-Mart and other merchants pay on Visa charge card transactions”.
Those large fees then caused “enormous damage” between 2004 and 2012, the retailer claims.
Wal-Mart is now suing Visa for damages, which it estimates to be over $5 billion.
Visa declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed this week in Fayetteville, Arkansas, near Wal-Mart’s headquarters.
MasterCard and Visa have decided to block credit card services to some Russian bank customers as a result of US sanctions.
Four banks are so far affected, all of which have links to Russians blacklisted by the US.
Visa and MasterCard are forbidden from having any dealings with those targeted by the sanctions.
The banks, which said card services stopped without warning, have described the move as unlawful.
One of the banks affected, Bank Rossiya, is described by the US as Russia’s 15th largest, with assets of $12 billion.
Bank Rossiya has been singled out by Washington as the personal bank for senior Russian officials. US officials said it would be “frozen out” from the dollar.
MasterCard and Visa have decided to block credit card services to some Russian bank customers as a result of US sanctions (photo AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Bank Rossiya had nothing to do with events in Crimea and promised to transfer his wages there.
“I personally don’t have an account there, but I certainly will open one on Monday,” he told a meeting of Russia’s Security Council.
Vladimir Putin also instructed the Russian central bank to step in, if needed, but the latter said the sanctions on Bank Rossiya did “not have a serious bearing on the lender’s financial stability”.
Visa and MasterCard also confirmed they had stopped providing services to SMP Bank, which is controlled by US-blacklisted brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg.
The bank, which is Russia’s 39th biggest with $5 billion in assets, called the actions “illegitimate” because its owners, rather than the bank itself, were the subject of sanctions.
Bank Rossiya’s affiliate banks, Sobinbank and InvestKapitalBank, were also affected.
But Visa said more than 99% of its business in Russia was untouched by sanctions.
Russian shares fell sharply on Friday as investors weighed the impact of western sanctions over Ukraine.
The MICEX index, which is priced in roubles, fell as much as 3% and the RTS, which is priced in dollars fell 3.6%.
Stocks slumped after President Barack Obama said sanctions might be extended to key parts of the Russian economy if Russia took further action in Ukraine.
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Mikhail Khodorkovsky has applied for a visa to travel to Switzerland, the Swiss foreign ministry says.
A ministry’s spokesman said Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky submitted his request for a three-month Schengen visa at the Swiss embassy in Berlin.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, 50, a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, spent 10 years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion.
He was pardoned and freed on Friday and immediately flew to Germany.
Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Stefan von Below told the Associated Press news agency that the three-month visa request would probably be processed in the coming days.
He declined to give further details.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has applied for a visa to travel to Switzerland
Schengen visas allow holders to travel to most EU countries without having their passports or other documents checked at the border.
Earlier, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s spokeswoman, Olga Pispanen, told AFP news agency that he was considering moving to Switzerland where his twin sons go to school.
Olga Pispanen said he was due to be reunited with his wife, Inna, and their three children in Berlin on Christmas Eve and he planned to discuss the idea with them.
“He is waiting for the family’s arrival. They will sit down and discuss everything,” she added.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has always insisted that his conviction was politically motivated.
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Lady Gaga and Madonna could potentially be facing prosecution after Russian officials issued a statement saying the singers did not obtain appropriate visas to enter and perform in the country.
According to The Guardian, Madonna, who played there in August 2012, and Lady Gaga, who performed last December, arrived using cultural-exchange visas, which “do not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity”.
Lady Gaga and Madonna face prosecution after Russian as they did not obtain appropriate visas to enter and perform in the country
As a result, prosecutors are looking into possibly asking Russia’s foreign ministry or federal migration service to press charges.
The investigation has come about after Vitaly Milonov, the Russian politician who authored St. Petersburg’s law banning gay “propaganda,” brought the visa issue to the attention of authorities.
Following their 2012 shows, Vitaly Milonov tried – unsuccessfully – to take legal action against Madonna and Lady Gaga for speaking out in support of LGBT issues during their concerts.
A new credit card rule going into effect Sunday, January 27, 2013, could cost you more when shopping with a credit card at some stores.
Visa and Mastercard have agreed to let merchants add a service charge equal to the cost of processing a credit transaction to the bottom line.
The cost of processing is usually 1.5 to 3%, and merchants are capped at a 4% fee under the agreement.
The rule change was made as part of settling an antitrust suit brought by retailers.
Merchants will still not be allowed to add a surcharge to debit card transactions.
However, few stores seem interested in raising their customer’s costs.
“We have discussed the settlement with many, many merchants, and not a single merchant we have spoken to plans to surcharge,” said Craig Sherman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, which was not involved in the lawsuit.
Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Home Depot all told NBC News that they had no plans to add a credit card surcharge.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas all ban credit card surcharges.
Both Visa and MasterCard have rules requiring retailers to handle credit cards the same way in every store regardless of location, so if a chain has a store in a state where surcharges are banned then none of its locations would be allowed to have a surcharge.
Under the settlement terms, a merchant adding surcharges on Visa or MasterCard would have to do the same with American Express cards, but that company prohibits surcharge fees.
“The bottom line is that very few retailers would be able to surcharge under the settlement, and that the vast majority don’t want to surcharge even if they could,” Craig Sherman said.
“In the brick-and-mortar world, no one who does any sort of volume business is going to want to surcharge because it will drive their customer crazy and slow down transactions,” agreed Ed Mierzwinski, Director of Consumer Programs at U.S. PIRG.
With the exception of small retailers, credit surcharges are not a major issue for most businesses.
A new credit card rule going into effect Sunday, January 27, 2013, could cost you more when shopping with a credit card at some stores
Still, over time they could become popular as a way for stores to make extra money.
That’s because stores already factor in the cost of processing a credit care when they price their merchandise. Unless they dropped their prices, second charge would be double-dipping at the loss of the consumer.
“We shouldn’t have gotten to the point, but unfortunately because of the court settlement we have,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.
“There’s no one standing up for consumers and saying that this is really bad.”
He notes that in Australia, where surcharging originated in 2003, extra charges have boomed to the point where one-third of retailers charge extra to use a credit card.
Advocacy group Consumer Action warns shoppers to watch their receipts and argue any fees that don’t belong.
“Customers shouldn’t stand for it,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities.
“Our advice is to tell them you don’t like the fee and this makes you want to take your business elsewhere.”
If a retailer plans to add a surcharge they are require to post a notification at the store’s entrance.
The exact surcharge per cent needn’t be disclosed until the sale.
Online stores with a surcharge will not be required to have a notice until shoppers reach the page where credit cards are first mentioned, which is most often the final step of checkout.
“We’re not convinced this is going to be an issue,” Ruth Susswein said.
“They may never do it, but as individual consumers we need to be aware.”