The Russian foreign ministry said that
Mr. Snowden appeared to be making a connection in Moscow to another
destination, but did not say where.
Russia’s Interfax news service, citing a
“person familiar with the situation,” reported that Mr. Snowden
would remain in transit at an airport in Moscow for “several hours”
pending an onward flight to Cuba, and would therefore not formally
cross the Russian border or be subject to detention.
Someone close to Mr. Snowden later told
Interfax that he planned to continue on to Caracas, Venezuela.
“He chose such a complex route in
the hope that he will not be detained and he will be able to
reach his final destination - Venezuela - unhindered,” the
Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong comes
just a day after the United States made a formal request for his
extradition, but the Hong Kong government concluded that the request,
“did not fully comply with the legal
requirements under Hong Kong law.”
The government also said that because there
“sufficient information to process the
request for provisional warrant of arrest” there had been “no legal
basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
Flight to Cuba
Which Snowden Booked Departs
by Max Seddon
Jun 24, 2013
from AssociatedPress Website
Associated Press White
House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writers
Philip Elliott, Matthew Lee and Frederic J. Frommer in
Washington, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Kevin Chan in Hong Kong and
Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
A plane took off from Moscow Monday headed
for Cuba, but the seat booked by National Security Agency leaker
Edward Snowden was empty, and there was no sign of him elsewhere on
An Aeroflot representative who wouldn't give her name told The
Associated Press that Snowden wasn't on flight SU150 to Havana. AP
reporters on the flight couldn't see him.
The Interfax news agency also quoted an unidentified Russian security
source in Moscow as saying that Snowden wasn't on the plane. The airline
said earlier Snowden registered for the flight using his U.S. passport,
which American officials say has been annulled.
Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he had been
hiding for several weeks to evade U.S. justice. Ecuador is considering
Snowden's asylum application.
After spending a night in Moscow's airport, the former National Security
Agency contractor - and admitted leaker of state secrets - had been
expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in
Snowden, also a former CIA technician, fled Hong Kong to dodge U.S.
efforts to extradite him on espionage charges.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino
said his government had received an asylum request, adding Monday that
"has to do with freedom of expression
and with the security of citizens around the world."
The anti-secrecy group
WikiLeaks also said it would help Snowden.
Ecuador has rejected the United States' previous efforts at cooperation,
and has been helping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange avoid
prosecution by allowing him to stay at its embassy in London.
Snowden gave documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post
newspapers disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast
amounts of phone records and online data in the name of foreign
intelligence, often sweeping up information on American citizens.
Officials have the ability to collect phone and Internet information
broadly but need a warrant to examine specific cases where they believe
terrorism is involved.
Snowden had been in hiding for several weeks in Hong Kong, a former
British colony with a high degree of autonomy from mainland China.
The United States formally sought Snowden's
extradition from Hong Kong to face espionage charges but was rebuffed;
Hong Kong officials said the U.S. request did not fully comply with
The Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all
of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong
During conversations last week, including a
phone call Wednesday between Attorney General Eric Holder and
Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong officials
never raised any issues regarding sufficiency of the U.S. request, a
Justice representative said.
The United States was in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement
channels with countries that Snowden could travel through or to,
reminding them that Snowden is wanted on criminal charges and
reiterating Washington's position that Snowden should only be permitted
to travel back to the U.S., a State Department official said. Snowden's
U.S. passport has been revoked.
U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to publicly discuss the case.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security
"Given our intensified cooperation after
the Boston marathon bombings and our history of working with Russia
on law enforcement matters - including returning numerous high-level
criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government -
we expect the Russian government to look at all options available to
expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes
with which he is charged."
Still, the United States is likely to have
problems interrupting Snowden's passage.
The United States does not have an
extradition treaty with Russia, but does with Cuba, Venezuela and
Ecuador. Even with an extradition agreement though, any country could
give Snowden a political exemption.
The likelihood that any of these countries would stop Snowden from
traveling on to Ecuador seemed remote. While diplomatic tensions have
thawed in recent years, Cuba and the United States are hardly allies
after a half-century of distrust.
Another country that could see Snowden pass
through, Venezuela, could prove difficult, as well. Former President
Hugo Chavez was a sworn enemy of the United States and his
successor, Nicolas Maduro, earlier this year called President
Barack Obama "grand chief of devils."
The two countries do not exchange
Snowden's options aren't numerous, said Assange's lawyer, Michael
"You have to have a country that's going
to stand up to the United States," Ratner said. "You're not talking
about a huge range of countries here."
It also wasn't clear Snowden was finished
disclosing highly classified information.
Snowden has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on
CBS' "Face the Nation."