Edward Snowden remains in hiding at Moscow airport

Former US spy agency contractor is facing charges of espionage.

Written by Reuters | Moscow | Published on:June 27, 2013 10:08 am

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden,facing charges of espionage,remained in hiding at a Moscow airport on Wednesday while the prospect grew of a protracted wrangle over his fate. Ecuador,where Edward Snowden has requested asylum,said a decision could take months and asked Washington to argue its case for extradition. Russia said Snowden,whose flight is proving a growing embarrassment for President Barack Obama,was still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.

A leading U.S. senator sought to raise pressure on Ecuador by saying he would seek to end preferential access for its goods to the United States if it gave asylum to Snowden,while Quito denied it had given him any travel document. Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong this month after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programmes,then flew on to Moscow on Sunday.

He has not been seen in the transit area – the zone between the departure gate and formal entry into the country – since his arrival,although a receptionist at a hotel in the transit zone said he looked at the prices there on Sunday,then left. Russian President cc has denied that Snowden was being interviewed by Russian intelligence and called any U.S. accusations that Moscow was aiding him “ravings and rubbish”. There was no sign of Snowden registering for onward flights out of Russia on Wednesday.

“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at Sheremetyevo said when asked if Snowden and his legal adviser,Briton Sarah Harrison,were due to fly out. “They are not in the system.” ‘SERIOUS SECURITY BREACH’ U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday that Snowden’s leaks to news media had been a “serious security breach” that damaged U.S. national security. He repeated calls for Moscow to hand him over.

“I would hope that the Russians do the right thing here,” Hagel told a Pentagon news conference,adding that Moscow evidently had not made a final decision since Snowden reportedly was still at the airport. Putin has said he will not extradite Snowden. By declaring that he is in the transit area,Russian authorities maintain the position that he has not formally entered Russia – a step that would take the dispute to another level. Russian law requires travellers who spend more than 24 hours in the airport’s transit area – as Snowden has done – to obtain a transit visa,which in some cases is valid for three days.

It is unclear whether Snowden has sought or received a visa,and if so when it would expire. The United States said on Sunday it had revoked Snowden’s passport. Several people,mainly refugees,have been able to stay in Moscow’s airports for months. What is clear is that the longer the situation remains unresolved,the more it could fray U.S.-Russian ties. The former Cold War-foes are already at odds over human rights and Putin’s treatment of opponents and have squared off over the Syria conflict in the U.N. Security Council.

Hagel reiterated criticism of China over Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong. “We’re very disappointed in the …continued »

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