News24

Mystery as Snowden vanishes in Moscow

2013-06-24 22:10

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 United States.

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 intelligence agencies.

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.

The 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.

Obama meanwhile 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

Accompanied 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.

But 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.

Just 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."

After 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.

Snowden's leaks 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.

Negative impact

"This 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.

Interfax quoted a source close to the matter as saying Russia was studying an extradition request it has received from the United States for Snowden.

However, 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.

Ecuadorian 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.

Ecuador's outspoken leftist President Rafael Correa has championed the cause of Assange and his allies, to the fury of the United States.

Asked in 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.

Snowden 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 world.

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 legal requirements.

Comments
  • Ahava Shapiro - 2013-06-24 22:25

    I hope the journalists enjoy the trip :)

      Johnny Better - 2013-06-24 22:44

      hehehe Drinking rum and Coca-Cola !!! That song came to mind.

      Sean Bagley - 2013-06-25 00:22

      Why was Snowden able to travel without detection initially and to leave Hong Kong under the veil of cover too?Snowden needed a larger organization to pull off his escapes and that's where WikiLeaks and Assange comes into the frame. Snowden seems to be rapped up in letting people know that he was the ONE responsible for the classified leaks and so keeps the focus on himself having the info and who controls it.A real misdirection of the spy game which is the act of distracting and drawing someone's attention away from something or in other words misdirection. Can't wait for a Oliver Stone movie on all this or a real life documentary on conspiracy theories.What the banks did to the World Economy back in 2008 is still far worse than what Assange or Snowden ever did.

      Chris Maakal - 2013-06-25 01:18

      Drinking rum and Coca-Cola? The flight to Cuba does not allow any alcoholic drinks - see www.aeroflot.ru/cms/en/flight/dining_onboard Also, many of the USA journalists do not have a Visa to enter Cuba, and will have to return on the very same 12h flight! I haven't laughed so much in a very very long time.

      Hilda MacArthur - 2013-06-25 06:56

      Same here,Chris, same here...

  • Bolawana Carol Masao - 2013-06-24 22:53

    The more I read this story the more it seems like I'm watching some movie...

  • Shirley Bisschoff - 2013-06-24 23:08

    So glad I'm not this guy. Mark my words someone in American intelligence is going to take him out. That's how those guys roll.

      Dmitri Dumas - 2013-06-25 07:24

      Shirley, they might, but I cannot see the CIA doing a black-ops on this guy. Remember that thee USA spied on other countries such as the UK, Germany, Israel as well as China. Each of these countries would like to get hold of Snowden, so although a US black-ops is a possibility, I think he might be well protected by some foreign intelligence service till he gets to "their" safe haven. After that, well ...

  • Giancarlo_Groenewald - 2013-06-24 23:22

    I think this guy knows some pretty awesome stuff. Maybe the Russians are getting all what they want out of before they let him hang dry or will we be plunged back into a cold war?

  • Mark Booysen - 2013-06-24 23:45

    The US probably has him already.!

  • James Blacksmith - 2013-06-24 23:45

    More and more countries are growing wary of the USA. Glad to be sitting at the Southern tip of Africa when it all goes pear shaped.

      Dmitri Dumas - 2013-06-25 07:25

      Agreed James, the US did try to spy on us, but found nothing worthwhile other than the names of Zuma's offspring and names of his wives. They are still laughing

  • Brian Heunis - 2013-06-24 23:45

    US trying to muscle China and Russia...those days are over!!!

      Sean Bagley - 2013-06-25 00:33

      It could all still be well orchestrated ploy by the US to see how well their diplomacy works on major countries.So far the US ain't doing to well at it,it seems.You would think that the US Government is a lot smarter than that to let a thing like this happen for no reason without there being a purpose for it.

  • Sidwell 'Feesh' Francis - 2013-06-25 00:00

    This is just like the Bourne Identity playing itself in real life,,,only that now,Jason Bourne (played by Edward Snowden),is having the sympathy of the entire world,except the usual power hungry and malicious enemy(USA).

  • Sean Bagley - 2013-06-25 00:22

    Why was Snowden able to travel without detection initially and to leave Hong Kong under the veil of cover too?Snowden needed a larger organization to pull off his escapes and that's where WikiLeaks and Assange comes into the frame. Snowden seems to be rapped up in letting people know that he was the ONE responsible for the classified leaks and so keeps the focus on himself having the info and who controls it.A real misdirection of the spy game which is the act of distracting and drawing someone's attention away from something or in other words misdirection. Can't wait for a Oliver Stone movie on all this or a real life documentary on conspiracy theories.What the banks did to the World Economy back in 2008 is still far worse than what Assange or Snowden ever did.

      Chris Maakal - 2013-06-25 01:20

      to request from the USA was faulty legal wise. HK took the right decision.

  • Danny Charles Mulopo - 2013-06-25 00:59

    CIA probably got him already

  • Sthembiso Mlangeni - 2013-06-25 01:22

    Goduka Snowden,my hero,showing a middle finger to the so called most powerful nation

  • Reza Ryklief - 2013-06-25 02:12

    This is really bad, either way, Godspeed Snowden. You're a hero.

  • selwyn.milborrow - 2013-06-25 04:16

    Porobably? Bad spelling!

  • Eunice Chebichiy - 2013-06-25 05:11

    i like your TV news

  • German Mazokera - 2013-06-25 05:12

    Useful tool

  • Richard Gouws - 2013-06-25 06:04

    Yes......their u go Snowden! Klomp Vuilgatte dai blerrie Americans.

  • Greg Page - 2013-06-25 06:53

    im so sick of these bloody yanks!!! im glad Snowden has screwed them over!!! YOU GO BOY!!!! ha ha ha

      Alan North - 2013-06-25 08:43

      sick of Yanks but love our sound bites "you go boy"

  • Motima Matikiti - 2013-06-25 07:12

    Dont play wth Putin KGB

      Dmitri Dumas - 2013-06-25 07:27

      Agreed. Putin, ex Spes, obummer - dagga smoker. No contest.

  • Joshua Nkambule - 2013-06-25 07:45

    Matt Damon must be featured here.

  • Manfred Qhaddafi Meyer - 2013-06-25 08:03

    US government trying to bully the rest of the world into submission. The guy only did what he thought was the right thing to do. Kudos to the Russians, Chinese and Ecuadorian governments for standing their ground. Had this guy been here, the ANC would have tap-danced long ago. I feel sorry for him though, now he has to sleep with one eye open for the rest of his life.

  • Miguel Capelo - 2013-06-25 08:13

    If I am wrong, and I am useless judge of character, I will be the first to own up... but watching the guardian story on Snowden left me thinking this guy has no ulterior motive other than exposing the Draconian measures that intelligence agencies employ throughout the world. He does not dither, is not shifty, talks straight, answers all the questions the journalist asks him and is resigned to his fate for exposing the truth. I do not see a character that is bitter because, as some other commentators have put it, he has not been advanced in his career. On the contrary, he states he makes good money and operated from HAWAII... ($200 000 a year) If you follow the link, read the segment on the Swiss banker who was wined and dined (to excess) and then bust for drinking and driving, just to get a "lean" on him by the CIA. (Oldest trick in the book; they offered to get the charges expunged in exchange the banker becoming an asset). In my eyes, one of the most important people of this decade. If I am wrong, I will be the first to recant. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/11/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-profile

  • Stalin Rudolf - 2013-06-25 08:29

    these chinaman have balls showing the finger to the US. we need leaders like these who cannot be dictated to!

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