According to a Russian politician, Edward Snowden has accepted an offer of political asylum from Venezuela.
Unofficial spokesman for the Kremlin Alexei Pushkov tweeted today that Edward Snowden, believed to be in Russia and wanted by the US authorities for leaking security secrets, is keen to take up the offer, AP reported.
The tweet was removed a few minutes after it was posted.
Soon after the tweet’s disappearance he sent another message saying his claim was based on a report from the state all-news television channel Vesti.
However, no such information could be found on Vesti’s website and no Russian news agency reported that Vesti had ever said it.
The TV channel could not immediately be reached for comment and the Kremlin declined comment on today’s developments.
Edward Snowden, 30, who revealed details of a US intelligence program to monitor internet activity, went to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on June 23 and was believed to be headed for Cuba.
But he did not board that flight is believed to have been stranded in the airport’s transit lounge ever since.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already offered asylum to Edward Snowden while Bolivia and Nicaragua said they too would grant asylum to the American fugitive.
Ecuador said it will consider any asylum request.
Nicolas Maduro said it is perhaps the world’s “first collective humanitarian asylum” with various countries saying: “Come here!”
But the United States has cancelled Edward Snowden’s passport and it is unclear if he has travel documents he would need to leave Moscow.
Nicolas Maduro said Edward Snowden “will have to decide when he flies here, if he finally wants to travel here”.
On Friday he said: “As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) … persecution from the empire.”
Nicolas Maduro made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.
“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Nicolas Maduro proclaimed during a military parade marking the country’s Independence Day.
“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world,” Nicolas Maduro said.
But the Obama administration said yesterday that U.S. diplomats are working behind the scenes to make it difficult for Edward Snowden to find safe harbor in any of the nations that have offered him asylum.
Edward Snowden has received a temporary travel document to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, and both Bolivia and Nicaragua have also offered him political asylum, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his regular briefing that the United States will do what it can to stop him.
“The United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or which might serve as final destinations for Mr. Snowden,” Jay Carney said.
U.S. diplomats, he added, have “made very clear that he has been charged with a felony, or with felonies, and, as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than travel that would result in him returning to the United States”.
It’s not clear whether the Obama administration is hoping a Latin American nation will double-cross Snowden and offer him up to Washington after he arrives from Russia.
But the U.S., Jay Carney said, is still working to persuade Moscow to short-circuit the process and turn the fugitive over before he can leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo-2 airport.
Sources say Edward Snowden will not be allowed to board the only Aeroflot plane that offers direct connections to Caracas, a regular service to Cuban capital Havana.
The routing overflies both the EU and the US and there are fears the plane will be denied rights to Western airspace, and forced to land, leading to Edward Snowden’s arrest.
The direct distance from Moscow to Caracas is 6,175 miles but it appeared too far for Edward Snowden.
The escape route for Edward Snowden is fraught with problems.
With Russia getting publicly impatient with Edward Snowden’s presence in its transit zone, his escape route is a logistical nightmare.
“Instead of going west to Venezuela, his obvious option is east to Vladivostok and then across the Pacific to Caracas,” said one source.
It would mean Russia allowing him to formally enter its territory, which so far it has refused to do, unwilling to upset the US.
This would also involve a 14,200 mile detour and a routing that would bring him close to the US state of Hawaii posing a risk to any private plane willing to take him on a route where there are no scheduled services.
One option for the fugitive is to charter a private plane.
Former CIA analyst Allen Thomson said: “A private plane certainly looks like the best bet to me.”
“It has the advantage of simplicity and minimum involvement by the Russian government,” Mother Jones reported.
As Allen Thomson told Foreign Policy, Edward Snowden could avoid US-influenced airspace by flying north to the Barents Sea, through the Denmark Strait, head soutwhile avoiding Canada’s Newfoundland, until getting to the east of the Windward Islands, then squeezing through between islands.