NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has left the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and crossed into the city upon being granted temporary asylum for one year in Russia, The Guardian reports.

Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, told the media he handed Snowden asylum papers Thursday and that Snowden’s whereabouts would be kept secret for reasons of security. Snowden would choose his own place of residence, but it would not be an embassy, the lawyer said. Russia Today tweeted that Kucherena said Snowden “is ready to talk to press, but he needs a day for adaptation.”

A senior Kremlin official has said ties between Russia and the United States will not suffer because of the “relatively insignificant” Snowden case, The Guardian reports. That official, Yuri Ushakov, is quoted as telling reporters: “Our president has … expressed hope many times that this will not affect the character of our relations.”

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disagreed, calling Snowden a “fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom” and the granting of asylum “a setback to U.S.-Russia relations.”

The Guardian refers to an Associated Press report quoting Kucherena as saying that Wednesday’s Guardian story revealing the top secret National Security program XKeyscore, by which analysts can search through vast databases containing emails, online chats and photographs belonging to millions of people with no prior authorization, was based on documents Snowden gave to the paper before he agreed to stop leaking. This was a key condition of Russia’s agreeing to offer Snowden asylum.

Reports say Snowden crossed the border into Russia at 3:30 p.m. local time.

The whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks in a tweet thanked “the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden.” It said it would release a statement by Snowden on the verdict of the Bradley Manning trial later Thursday. The group reported that Snowden left the Moscow airport with WikiLeaks associate Sarah Harrison.

Snowden previously said he would seek long-term asylum in a Latin American country, citing offers for protection from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. The Guardian refers to an interview with Rossiya 24 television Thursday in which the whistle-blower said he had “no plans” to leave Russia for another country.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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