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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor