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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin