Snowden leaves Moscow airport

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
August 1, 2013

Russia grants Snowden temporary asylum, sources say Mugabe sweeps election, and Bulgarians take to the streets for peaceful demonstrations. Today is Thursday, August 1, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Edward Snowden is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of the Guardian/Handout via Reuters

Snowden calls a cab. Wanted NSA leaker Edward Snowden finally left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport upon receiving temporary asylum from Russia. Snowden made a lackluster exit from the airport’s transit area, where he has spent more than a month in limbo:

After 39 days avoiding hordes of reporters desperate for a glimpse of him, Snowden managed to give them the slip again, leaving the airport in a taxi without being spotted… Grainy images on Russian television showed Snowden’s new document, which is similar to a Russian passport, and revealed that he had been granted asylum for a year from July 31… [Snowden's attorney] said Snowden, who had his U.S. passport revoked by Washington after he fled to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23, was not going to stay at an embassy in Moscow, although three Latin American countries have offered to shelter him.

Washington has asked Moscow to return Snowden, charged with espionage, to the U.S., promising that he won’t be tortured or executed for his alleged crimes. A senior Kremlin official said today that the Snowden case is not significant enough to harm relations between the countries, adding that there was no sign President Obama would cancel a September summit with Putin. The U.S. government is still grappling with Snowden’s disclosures – on Wednesday the Guardian reported that a secret NSA program allows analysts to search a massive database that includes emails, chats, and browsing histories of millions of people, according to documents leaked by Snowden. The revelation upstaged U.S. efforts to lend transparency to the NSA program by declassifying certain documents. Snowden was accompanied by WikiLeaks representative Sarah Harrison when he left the airport for an undisclosed location.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe looks on before casting his vote in Highfields outside Harare, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Five more years? Officials from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s party today claimed a landslide victory for the incumbent leader. The results of Wednesday’s presidential election won’t officially be announced until August 5, but a senior source in opposing candidate Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party said the vote was a “monumental fraud”:

The head of an African Union monitoring mission said on Wednesday the polls had initially appeared “peaceful, orderly and free and fair” – an assessment at odds with the view of the MDC and independent agencies. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading domestic monitoring body, said the credibility of the vote was seriously compromised by large numbers of people being turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds. It also cast doubt on the authenticity of the voters’ roll, noting that 99.97 percent of voters in the countryside – Mugabe’s main source of support – were registered, against just 67.9 percent in the mostly pro-Tsvangirai urban areas.

The dispute over the projected results warns of a possible repeat of the violence that followed Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections. Another five-year term for 89-year-old Mugabe would likely mean continued tension with the West, which views the controversial leader as responsible for human rights abuses and the country’s failing economy.

Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in central Sofia, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

“Middle class revolution.” For the past seven weeks, Bulgarians frustrated with their government have taken to the streets for peaceful evening protests. Demonstrators lack a political agenda, but are united by a desire to see Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski step down:

Bulgaria, a Black Sea nation of 7.3 million sandwiched between Greece and Romania, has been transformed in the past 23 years from a financially bankrupt one-party state into an open, stable market economy anchored in the European Union and NATO. But six years after joining the EU, it remains the poorest and one of the most graft-prone countries in the 28-member club, with average monthly salaries stuck at around 400 euros. The protesters, mostly young, well-educated and well-travelled, are deeply disillusioned with a political class they view as inept, opaque, corrupt and incapable of satisfying their core demand to live in a “normal European country.”

The protesters are supported by 44 percent of Bulgarians, according to a survey conducted by the Open Society Institute. The poll shows that 33 percent support the government and that 72 percent sees the country’s situation as “unbearable,” suggesting an environment ripe for change.

Nota Bene: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition leads in the polls for the first time in four years.

Standouts:

Bigger problems - Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer argues that peace talks aren’t enough to fix the Middle East. (Reuters)

Flaky fatwa - Syrian rebels ban croissants as symbols of “colonial” oppression. (The Washington Post)

Legalize Uruguay - Uruguay passes a bill that would legalize marijuana. (BBC)

Chocolate war - Russia bans imports from a Ukrainian chocolatier. (The Atlantic)

Dance diplomacy - K-pop makes waves in Latin America. (Time)

From the File:

  • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issues mea culpa.
  • Over 1,000 Iraqis killed in July.
  • Libyan court sentences former Gaddafi minister to death.
  • Mursi needs dignified exit to resolve Egypt’s political stand-off.
  • Japanese minister retracts Nazi comment.
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