Russian senator Ruslan Gattarov has begun a campaign to raise funds for Edward Snowden‘s investigation into the security of Russians’ personal data, claiming that the whistleblower is running out of money.
Gattarov, a member of the ruling United Russia party, has said he will open a bank account and create a website to gather donations for the National Security Agency leaker, who was last week granted temporary asylum in Russia. Gattarov told the Izvestiya newspaper that the domain name helpsnowden.ru had been registered and volunteers from several IT companies were developing the website.
The site will be available at helpsnowden.net for international donors. Neither website was working on Wednesday.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Izvestiya that the whistleblower would “gratefully accept the help” of donors in Russia and other countries. “Edward is not a rich man and his own funds won’t last for long,” she said.
Gattarov reportedly started the fundraising initiative at the behest of several bloggers. Anton Korobkov-Zemlyansky, a blogger and member of Russia’s Civic Chamber, has promised to donate 30,000 rubles (£600) to the Snowden appeal.
On Tuesday, Kucherena said that Snowden had registered his new place of residence with the authorities, as all foreigners must do, although the location is being kept secret. He has already been offered a job by Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte.
Meanwhile, Gattarov has renewed his call for Snowden to assist a working group investigating US intelligence agencies’ access to the personal information of Russian users, launched by the senator in light of his revelations. In an interview on Tuesday with the National News Service, Gattarov said Snowden would help the working group to find “gaps in the storage of Russians’ personal information” by western internet companies. He argued that providing such information wouldn’t harm the US and therefore wouldn’t violate the condition for the whistleblower’s stay, as set by President Vladimir Putin.
“Snowden will help protect the constitutional rights of Russian citizens,” Gattarov said.
Several local human rights activists have noted the irony of Snowden’s temporary asylum in Russia, where government agencies have the ability to surveil virtually all phone and internet communications.
In a sarcastic letter to Snowden published on the website of radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow), opposition activist Roman Dobrokhotov told “Ed” that he “can make a wonderful career” exposing US government wrongdoing in Russia.
“I would only advise you not to forget which government you’re fighting against,” Dobrokhotov wrote. “Because if you mix it up in the heat of the moment, you’ll have to return to a capsule room (and this one probably won’t be in the airport).