Posted: 12:43 p.m. Sunday, June 23, 2013
(Image source: South China Morning Post)
BY ELIZABETH HAGEDORN
The Russian airliner reportedly carrying Edward Snowden has landed in Moscow — though it likely isn’t the whistleblower’s final destination.
“There you see a press scrub as cameras have gathered to film the arrival." (Via Sky News)
Snowden, the former NSA contractor who says he leaked details of top-secret U.S. surveillance programs, had been hiding out in Hong Kong. (Via The Guardian)
But the extradition request from the U.S. did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, making him free to leave, as first reported by CBS.
The South China Morning Post, which has been in contact with Snowden, reported he was on a flight bound for Moscow on Sunday. It’s still unclear which country he’s seeking asylum from, or if he’ll even stay in Moscow.
Several news agencies have cited an unnamed official from a Russian airline saying there’s a ticket in Snowden’s name flying from Moscow to Cuba Monday. Some speculate he could move to Venezuela or Ecuador next. (Via Google Maps)
And there are plenty of conflicting reports — Russia’s Interfax News Agency is reporting a Venezuelan diplomat has picked up Snowden at the airport. (Via Twitter / @WilliamsJon)
Still others report having seen Ecuadorian diplomats at the airport. (Via Twitter / @MiriamElder)
Either way, as the BBC explains:
"Look at the world as a river #Snowdens trying to cross. The countries are stepping stones, places he won't be arrested by US"
It’s believed Snowden will stay overnight in Russia. A Russian official hinted earlier this month that Moscow would consider offering Snowden asylum, although the Russian embassy in Beijing would not comment. (Via Fox News)
He left with the help of WikiLeaks, which claimed it ensured Snowden’s safe exit from Hong Kong, writing on its website:
"He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks."
Snowden’s reported arrival in Moscow comes just two days after the Justice Department filed criminal charges against him. (Via NBC)
A State Department spokesperson said in a statement:
“We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel.” (Via CNN)
A recent CNN poll found 54 percent of Americans think the U.S. should prosecute Snowden for releasing the NSA material.