Mystery as Snowden vanishes in Moscow
25 June 2013, 08:52
Moscow - Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Monday
vanished in Moscow after failing to take a flight to Cuba on which he
was booked, as Washington demanded that Moscow expel him back to the
Snowden, who embarrassed US President Barack Obama
with his revelations of massive surveillance programmes, failed to
appear on the Aeroflot flight to Havana from where he had been expected
to continue to Ecuador and claim asylum.
Russia's Interfax news
agency, known for its strong security contacts, confirmed that he was
not on the Havana flight and quoted an informed source as saying he was
porobably already out of the country.
Snowden had arrived in
Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, from where he leaked to the media
details of secret cyber-espionage programmes by both US and British
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said
Snowden was "safe" after leaving Hong Kong with a refugee document
supplied by Ecuador after the United States revoked his passport.
White House dubbed Snowden a traitor to his country and warned both
Russia and China that their relations with the US might be damaged by
their refusal to extradite him.
"We expect [the Russians] to look
at the options available to them to expel Mr Snowden back to the United
States," White House spokesperson Jay Carney said.
said that the United States was following all appropriate legal
channels and "working with various other countries to make sure that the
rule of law is observed."
Snowden was said by Russian officials
to have spent the night in a distinctly unglamorous "capsule hotel" at
Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport awaiting his onward connection.
Not on board
by WikiLeaks activist Sarah Harrison, he had been expected to take
Aeroflot's 10:05 GMT flight on Monday from Moscow to Havana after
airline sources confirmed he had checked in and had a seat allocated.
in a dramatic sequence of events, the flight left the terminal at
Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport with a pack of hopeful journalists on
board and no sign of the former National Security Agency (NSA)
contractor among the passengers.
An AFP correspondent on board said that the seat he had been allocated - 17A - was glaringly empty.
as the plane was taking off, the Interfax news agency quoted a Russian
security source and an Aeroflot source as saying that Snowden was not on
board the flight to Havana.
It quoted another source familiar
with the matter as saying: "Snowden, most likely, has already left the
Russian Federation. He could have left on a different plane."
the journalists learned Snowden was probably not on the plane, the
doors had already been closed and there was no way out of a long and
potentially fruitless 12-hour trip to Havana.
Adding to the
mystery, he has not once been seen in public in the Moscow airport since
Sunday's Aeroflot flight arrived from Hong Kong.
forced Obama's administration to defend US intelligence agencies'
practice of gathering huge amounts of telephone and internet data from
private users around the world.
The White House warned sharply
that the decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong had
"unquestionably" harmed efforts to build trust in US-China relations.
was a deliberate choice by the [Chinese] government to release a
fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant and that decision unquestionably
has a negative impact on the relationship," Carney said.
quoted a source close to the matter as saying Russia was studying an
extradition request it has received from the United States for Snowden.
the source said Russia does not have the right to either "detain or
deport" Snowden because he has not officially crossed the Russian border
at Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino confirmed that the Latin American
country, whose embassy in London is already sheltering the wanted
Assange, was considering Snowden's asylum request.
outspoken leftist President Rafael Correa has championed the cause of
Assange and his allies, to the fury of the United States.
Hanoi about the whereabouts of Snowden, Patino replied: "I cannot give
you any information on this. We are talking to the Russian government,
but we do not have that information."
On his Twitter feed, Correa
added in typical style: "Hi to the country and the world... Be sure that
we are analysing the Snowden case with the greatest responsibility."
Assange said in a teleconference in London that he knew where Snowden is and "he is in a safe place and his spirits are high."
"Due to the bellicose threats coming from the US administration we cannot go into further detail at this time," he added.
abandoned his high-paying job in Hawaii and went to Hong Kong on 20 May
to begin issuing a series of leaks on the NSA gathering of phone call
logs and Internet data, triggering concern from governments around the
Hong Kong, a special administrative region under Chinese
rule that has maintained its own British-derived legal system, said it
had informed Washington of Snowden's exit after determining that the US
government request to arrest him did not fully comply with Hong Kong