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Edward Snowden says he would love to get asylum in Switzerland.

The fugitive US whistleblower was speaking via video link to a Geneva audience, from Moscow where he is sheltering from US prosecutors.

“I would love to return to Switzerland, some of my favorite memories are from Geneva,” Edward Snowden said. Previously he worked in Geneva undercover for the CIA.

Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking US secrets, said US authorities had given him no assurances of a fair trial.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“The only thing they’ve said at this point was that they would not execute me,” he said.

“That’s not quite the same thing as agreeing to a fair and open trial.”

He was speaking to the audience after a viewing of Citizenfour, an Oscar-winning documentary about his case. In 2013 his exposure of massive US surveillance – including routine tapping of internet traffic – grabbed the headlines worldwide.

It was an unprecedented leak by an insider in the top-secret US National Security Agency (NSA).

“I do think Switzerland would be a sort of great political option because it has a history of neutrality,” Edward Snowden told the Geneva audience.

Edward Snowden said he had requested asylum in 21 countries, most in Central and Eastern Europe, but none had granted his wish. He blamed US “political interference”.

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Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since he accused Russia of lying about its role in Ukraine’s war.

The talks in Geneva coincide with a UN report on human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in east Ukraine.

The UN says the conflict has claimed at least 6,000 lives, with hundreds killed in the past few weeks alone.

A fragile ceasefire is holding despite some fighting in recent days.

At his meeting in Geneva, John Kerry is also expected to raise the brutal murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on February 27.

Boris Nemtsov, who was shot on a bridge near the Kremlin, had been planning an anti-war rally and was said to be working on a report to expose the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.

His allies accused the Kremlin of involvement but Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the murder as “vile” and vowed to find the killers.John Kerry to meet Sergei Lavrov in Geneva

John Kerry will press for an investigation that he said should examine not only who pulled the trigger, but who ordered, funded and co-ordinated Boris Nemtsov’s murder.

Separately, John Kerry is also expected to renew negotiations with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Tehran’s nuclear program.

There is an end of March deadline to reach agreement on limiting the program, in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

The talks on Ukraine are expected to be tense after John Kerry last week accused Russian officials of lying to him about Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

During a visit to London on February 21, John Kerry accused the Kremlin of “craven behavior” in its support for the rebels in east Ukraine, undermining a ceasefire.

Fighting began in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions last April, a month after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula.

The UN estimates that at least 1.25 million have fled their homes, and believes that the real number of fatalities could be considerably higher than the 6,000 it has given.

In its latest report, released on March 2, it refers to credible accounts of heavy weapons and foreign fighters continuing to flow into eastern Ukraine from Russia.

The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and NATO say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels with heavy weapons and soldiers.

Independent experts echo that accusation but Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are “volunteers”.

Both sides in the conflict have been pulling back some heavy weaponry from the front line – one of the conditions of the ceasefire agreement signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk last month.

Monitors from the OSCE security group have reported weapons movements on both sides but say it is too early to confirm a full withdrawal. Meanwhile violence continued over the weekend.

Offices of the Geneva subsidiary of HSBC bank are being raided by Swiss police in an inquiry into alleged money-laundering.

Prosecutors said they were investigating HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) and “persons unknown for suspected aggravated money laundering”.

The investigation could be extended to people suspected of committing or participating in money laundering.

HSBC said it was “co-operating with the Swiss authorities.”

The police raid comes more than a week after allegations first emerged that HSBC’s Swiss private bank may have helped wealthy clients evade tax.

HSBC published a full-page advert in several weekend papers containing an apology over the claims.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

The chief executive of HSBC’s Swiss private bank, Franco Morra, said last week it had shut down accounts from clients who “did not meet our high standards”.

Franco Morra added the revelations about “historical business practices” were a reminder that the old business model of Swiss private banking was no longer acceptable.

HM Revenue & Customs was given the leaked data in 2010 and has identified 1,100 people who had not paid their taxes.

Last week, HSBC admitted that it was “accountable for past control failures”, but said it had now “fundamentally changed”.

“We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” it added.

HSBC faces criminal investigations in the US, France, Belgium and Argentina, but not in the UK, where the bank is based.

The bank said it was “co-operating with relevant authorities”.

Offshore accounts are not illegal, but many people use them to hide cash from the tax authorities.

While tax avoidance is perfectly legal, deliberately hiding money to evade tax is not.

According to Swiss police, the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome has hijacked the aircraft and landed in Geneva.

The hijacker – who has been arrested – waited for the pilot to go to the toilet to lock himself in the cockpit. He was unarmed. He has requested asylum in Switzerland.

The airline said in a statement that all 202 passengers and crew were safe.

Geneva airport, which was closed for a time, has now reopened.

The 30-year-old co-pilot has sought asylum due to fear of persecution in Ethiopia, police said at a news conference.

After locking himself in the cockpit, he asked to refuel at Geneva, landed the plane, climbed down from the cockpit window using a rope (available in the cockpit), and gave himself up to police.

He was unarmed and there was no risk at any time to crew or passengers, police said.

The co-pilot of the Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome has hijacked the aircraft and landed in Geneva

The co-pilot of the Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome has hijacked the aircraft and landed in Geneva

The situation inside the plane remained calm throughout.

The co-pilot himself alerted the authorities to the plane’s hijacking, officials added – and passengers on the plane were unaware it had been hijacked.

The only possible offence the co-pilot could be charged with is that of hostage-taking, for which he could face up to 20 years of imprisonment, a Geneva prosecutor said at the news conference.

Flight 702 was scheduled to leave the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at 00:30 local time, and arrive in Rome at 04:40 local time.

The Boeing 767-300 made an unscheduled landing in the Swiss city at 06:00.

The evacuation of passengers began at about 07:25; they were all searched twice and have been questioned by police.

The hijacking began over Italy, and two fighter jets – probably Italian – were scrambled to accompany the plane, Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon said at the news conference.

The last hijacking to take place at Geneva airport was that of an Air Afrique plane in 1985.

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