Did Assange try to flee to Russia in 2010?

About six weeks ago, rumors were flying hot and heavy, indicating that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was “within days” of either voluntarily leaving or being evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Supposedly, his hosts had grown tired of the headaches he’d been causing them and new leadership in Ecuador wasn’t quite as interested in ticking off the United States and Spain. Also, most of the other charges against him in Europe had been dropped except for a relatively minor British charge of refusing to comply with a summons. There were even suggestions that he was willing to discuss coming to the United States and testifying before Congress in exchange for immunity. But that was more than a month ago and as of now, nothing has happened. He’s still stuck in the embassy and, according to some reports, his health is seriously failing.

Recently, the Associated Press has come into possession of a trove of leaked documents from Wikileaks, offering a closer look into Assange’s history. One piece of interest surfaced this weekend. It’s a letter from November of 2010 in which Assange seems to be applying for a Russian visa so he could flee the area and take refuge on Vladimir Putin’s home turf. (Huffington Post)

Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his website, WikiLeaks, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was recently obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010 missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to The Associated Press.

The AP has been cross-checking all of the leaked documents as best they can and feel confident that this one is legitimate. Assuming that’s so, it indicates that Assange was well aware that the noose was closing around him and he would probably need to get out of town quickly. With the list of countries expressing law enforcement interest in him growing by the day, perhaps his options were limited, but if Russia accepted his request he would have been home free.

Unfortunately for Assange, on the same day that he wrote the letter (November 30, 2010) Interpol sent out a Red Notice for Assange’s arrest and his Russian getaway plan was sunk. The AP can’t confirm whether or not the letter was ever actually delivered, but there are indications that his friend, Israel Shamir, did make sure it arrived in Russia. But by then it was too late.

Here’s a question for the peanut gallery. How is a guy who made his fame and fortune arguing for “radical transparency” be so comfortable doing business with and even moving to Russia? It’s not as if Moscow is a haven for open government. Quite the opposite, in fact. But Russia is also known for not extraditing people and taking some amount of pleasure in acting as a thorn in the side to the west. Much like Edward Snowden, the Russians would probably have found some use for Assange to justify allowing him to stay there. But it doesn’t say much for the man’s scruples.

In any event, all of that wound up falling through. Assange raised a lot of money from supporters to make bail and them promptly skipped out on it, leaving them holding the bag. He fled to the Ecuadorian embassy and the rest is history. But if he’s as sick as he says, he may be coming out this year after all… one way or another.