Russia faces US fury over Snowden asylum

MOSCOW - Russia on Friday faced fury from the United States after granting asylum to fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, whose whereabouts are now a mystery after he was finally able to walk free from an airport transit zone where he was marooned for over five weeks.

The White House said it was "extremely disappointed" by Moscow's decision, adding that it would now review if a US-Russia summit in September is necessary.

Snowden, 30, is wanted on felony charges by the United States after leaking sensational details of vast US surveillance programmes.

But he slipped out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport unnoticed by journalists on Friday and took a taxi to an undisclosed location, after winning temporary asylum from Russia for a year.

The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said in a statement that the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor is now in a "secure, confidential place".

Snowden thanked Russia and slammed the administration of US President Barack Obama for having "no respect" for international or domestic law.

"But in the end the law is winning," he said in the WikiLeaks statement.

The White House warned Russia's decision could prompt Obama to cancel a planned visit to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the Saint Petersburg G20 summit.

"We're extremely disappointed," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "We're evaluating the utility of a summit in light of this."

President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment on Snowden's temporary asylum. He is due to meet youth supporters at a summer camp later Friday.

Russian commentators saw Snowden's asylum as Moscow's move to assert its independence.

"Any other decision would have been a loss of face for Russia. If we hadn't provided Snowden with asylum, people would stop seeing Russia as a force to be reckoned with," a lawmaker for ruling United Russia party Vyacheslav Nikonov, told Kommersant daily.

In an editorial in Izvestia daily, nationalist radical politician Eduard Limonov wrote that "Russia acted like an independent, serious power. Now I'm sure our weight in the world will increase."