Edward Snowden is set to fly from Moscow to Ecuador where he will seek asylum, WikiLeaks has revealed.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden, 30, flew into the Russian capital just after 5 p.m. local time on Sunday after fleeing Hong Kong, where he had been hiding out since leaking explosive details of the U.S. government’s widespread surveillance programs.
Unable to leave Moscow’s Sheremtyevo airport without a Russian visa, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor is reportedly booked into a $15-an-hour capsule hotel on the airport premises where he will stay before he flies out to Ecuador tomorrow via a “safe route” – presumably Cuba.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, WikiLeaks said Edward Snowden was bound for Ecuador – a country which has been harboring the anti-secrecy agency’s founder Julian Assange for the past year – “for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks”.
At around 8:40 p.m. Moscow time, Ecuador’sf oreign minister, Ricardo Patiño Aroca, tweeted that Edward Snowden had officially requested asylum from the South American country.
WikiLeaks said the request will be formally processed once Edward Snowden touches down in Ecuador.
It is not clear if Edward Snowden has arrived at the Vozdushny Express hotel, located in Terminal E, where The Guardian reported that he was booked in. Guests must pay by the hour, however a minimum stay is four hours. On its website, the hotel describes its rooms as resembling “cabins of (a) cruise liner” rather than “capsules”. It is not clear when on Monday Snowden is due to fly to Ecuador – presumably the capital, Quito.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Edward Snowden’s passport has been revoked by the U.S. though he should still be able to travel to a country that wants to take him, CBS News reported.
A revoked passport, however, may complicate travel to a third country – namely Cuba, which is where he is believed to be passing through en route to Ecuador.
State Department Jen Psaki said in a statement: “As is routine and consistent with US regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status.
“Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States. Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Mr. Snowden’s passport specifically.”
Edward Snowden is not expected to leave the airport in Moscow so his immigration status shouldn’t be a concern in Russia.
An Aeroflot source earlier told Interfax: “He has arrived. He cannot leave the terminal, since he doesn’t have a Russian visa.”
Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia, Patricio Chavez, along with crowds of journalists, was waiting to meet with Edward Snowden inside Sheremtyevo airport after his Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong to Moscow landed. Two diplomatic cars from the Ecuador embassy were photographed in the car park.
It was earlier reported that Edward Snowden would fly to Havana, Cuba tomorrow and then on to Caracas in Venezuela, though Ecuador perhaps makes more sense as a safe haven given the country has been harboring WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy for more than a year.
The White House said President Barack Obama has been briefed on Sunday’s developments, which could prove embarrassing for the government.
After news spread of the whistleblower’s departure from Hong Kong, U.S. politicians began again labeling Edward Snowden a “traitor” and demanding the Obama administration chase him to the ends of the earth.
“I think it is important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero,” Republican congressman for New York Peter King said on Fox News on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Republican senator for South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, told the same station: “I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”
WikiLeaks said in the statement Edward Snowden requested its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety.
“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Assange, said in a statement on Sunday.
“What is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people.”
WikiLeaks already helped Edward Snowden flee Hong Kong. He caught Aeroflot flight SU213 from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday morning.
WikiLeaks said in an earlier statement that its legal advisers had been on the plane to Moscow with Edward Snowden and they would help ‘secure his safety’ at his ‘final destination’.
In tweets from its official account, Wikileaks said: “WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers and safe exit from Hong Kong.
“Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors.”
The site has confirmed British journalist and legal researcher Sarah Harrison was with Edward Snowden on the flight, adding she was “courageously” assisting him “in his passage to safety”.
The Hong Kong government confirmed he had left the country “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel”.
Edward Snowden got an Aeroflot flight from Chep Lap Kok airport at 11.04 a.m. Sunday (Hong Kong time) and landed at Moscow’s Shermetyevo International Airport at 5.15 p.m.
A Moscow-based agent for the airline said Edward Snowden was traveling on a one-way ticket and had one person with him, the New York Times reported.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it had been informed Edward Snowden had left Hong Kong.
“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,” spokesman, Nanda Chitre, told CBS News.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement that it had told the US about the whistleblower’s departure.
The U.S. government Saturday warned Hong Kong not to drag its feet over extraditing Edward Snowden after he was charged with theft, espionage and theft of government property.