Flight SU150 from Moscow arrives in Cuba without Edward Snowden - but Ecuador confirms NSA whistleblower is seeking asylum

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Julian Assange says Snowden is 'in a safe place and his spirits are high'

At Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Monday, Edward Snowden slipped through the net of the world’s media like the invisible man, with the fugitive whistleblower a no-show for the flight he was expected to take to Havana, Cuba. Ecuador is apparently the American’s final destination, with the country’s Foreign Minister confirming that Mr Snowden has lodged an application for political asylum. How he plans to reach the country remains a mystery.

With the 2pm departure time drawing near there was a furious scramble as journalists were instructed not to film around the departure gate, with some even having footage forcibly wiped from their cameras. But despite the circus there was no sign of the former National Security Agency contractor. Eventually, the plane’s doors closed and the dozens of Russian and international journalists already on board realised that seat 17A was empty and they were travelling to Havana without the man they had all been chasing. Sources at the airport thereafter gave a series of conflicting updates to Russian news agencies: Mr Snowden had already left the country; Mr Snowden was still in the hotel; Mr Snowden was booked on a later Aeroflot flight to Cuba.


Half a day on, when SU150 landed in Havana, there was still no sign of the 30-year-old. The flight crew were also said to have denied Mr Snowden's presence on the aircraft.  

Mr Snowden’s whereabouts have created diplomatic tension alongside the intrigue, after Washington revoked his passport after he left Hong Kong. A White House spokesman said the US expected Russia to send him back, and registered strong objections with China and Hong Kong for letting him go. “We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official,” Jay Carney said. “This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship,” he said.

During a trade mission to India yesterday US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “We don’t know, specifically, where [Snowden] may head... It would be deeply troubling, obviously, if they [Russia and China] had adequate notice, and … they made the decision wilfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law.” Russian officials said that after the recent passage of the Magnitsky Act, which bans certain Russian officials from entry to the US, Moscow was in no mood to co-operate.

A New York Times report quoted an unnamed source saying that Mr Snowden had been staying in a government-owned apartment in Hong Kong before he fled. He had apparently been compelled to seek sanctuary in the safe house after journalists found out which hotel he had been staying in. Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho said that he believed Beijing was behind the decision to allow Mr Snowden to fly out, claiming that a Chinese government intermediary called Mr Snowden and told him to leave, guaranteeing him safe passage. As the hours passed yesterday some began to question whether Mr Snowden was in Moscow at all. But his presence was later confirmed by Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, who gave a news conference during a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam.

“As we all know, he arrived in Russia,” he said, after reading out the whistleblower’s asylum application. He declined to say where Mr Snowden was but confirmed that his application had not yet been ruled on. He did, however, use the occasion to deliver a stinging critique of US foreign policy and the surveillance techniques which Mr Snowden uncovered. “In the last few days the word ‘treason’ has been mentioned,” Mr Patino said. “But is it the people who have been betrayed, or certain elites?”

In his asylum application Mr Snowden’s compares himself to WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and maintains that he would not receive “humane treatment” prior to any US trial, claiming that he could be sentenced to death. He has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence in relation to his leaks of NSA material, each of which carries a potential 10-year sentence.

Ecuador has already given asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is in the country’s London Embassy. Mr Assange, whose anti-secrecy group has helped Mr Snowden with his transit plans and legal assistance, said last night that Mr Snowden was in “good health” in a safe place, but again declined to say where.

Mr Assange staged a conference call, in which he updated the world on what he knows of Snowden's situation. Sarah Harrison, who works for Wikileaks, is thought to be travelling with the fugitive.

Assange said that the organisation had paid Snowden's travel and living expenses since he left Hong Kong.

He said: "We are aware of where Edward Snowden is. 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.

"In relation to Hong Kong Mr Snowden was supplied with a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadoran government."

When asked if Snowden had been questioned by the Chinese authorities before leaving Hong Kong, Assange said: “As far as I am aware that is false.”

He added that there was no communication between Snowden and Russian officials before he departed from Hong Kong.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness