Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden left the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Thursday after receiving a temporary grant of asylum in Russia, his Russian legal adviser told the media.

"I delivered to him the certification of the grant of temporary asylum for one year in the Russian Federation," attorney Anatoli Kucherena said, adding that the American may travel freely throughout the country.

Snowden, who exposed Washington's targeting of the telephonic and Internet communications of tens of millions of private citizens in the United States and abroad, left the airport for a "secure location," the lawyer said.

"The matter of security is a big issue for him," Kucherena said of the 30-year-old American, who faces charges in the United States under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Accepting the condition set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Snowden said last month that he was prepared to refrain from making further revelations about Washington's global electronic spying if Moscow gave him asylum.

Snowden had been stuck in the airport transit area since June 23, when he arrived on a commercial flight from Hong Kong.

He traveled to Russia with plans to board another flight for Cuba en route to asylum in Ecuador, but that plan fell apart and the U.S. government revoked his passport.

While Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered Snowden refuge, he has struggled to find a way to reach Latin America without crossing the airspace of the United States or its allies.

British attorney Sarah Harrison, who has accompanied Snowden since he left Hong Kong, was at his side when he left the airport, WikiLeaks said on its Web site.

Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States and Putin's administration has flatly rejected the notion of handing over Snowden to Washington. EFE