Venezuela offers Edward Snowden hope of asylum - but for now whistleblower is grounded at Moscow airport as Vladimir Putin refuses extradition

Former CIA employee remains stuck at Moscow airport with annulled US passport

Moscow

Edward Snowden was given another option of a possible safe haven today as the Venezuelan President said he would consider an asylum request for the former NSA contractor. However, there were reports this morning that Mr Snowden's annulled US passport meant he was stuck at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, unable to enter Russia proper or buy a ticket out.

"If they proposed it, and it seems that it has been requested of Ecuador … we would also consider it," said Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's President, of a possible asylum bid today. He said that the "information on the violation of civil liberties" leaked by Snowden could "change the world".

Ecuador's foreign minister has said that Mr Snowden has indeed applied for asylum in the country but denies reports that is has issued travel documents. Ecuador has also granted asylum to Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, who has been stuck in the country's London Embassy for a year. The question now is whether Mr Snowden might end up being stuck in a similar kind of limbo, or whether he will be able to continue on to Venezuela or Ecuador. On Monday he was booked on a scheduled Aeroflot flight to Havana but did not take it, and the Cuba route still seems the most logical way to get from Moscow to Latin America without passing countries that might extradite him to the US. However, the Aeroflot plane does ordinarily fly through US airspace.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Mr Snowden was a "free man" and that the sooner he buys a ticket to leave to a destination of his choice, "the better for him, and for us". However, Russian agency Interfax quoted a source close to Mr Snowden this morning saying that his annulled passport meant he could not travel. He was apparently provided refugee documents by Ecuador which enabled him to leave Hong Kong for Moscow, but it is unclear whether these are still valid. Interfax has previously published false information about Mr Snowden's case attributed to unnamed sources.

The US has asked Russia to extradite Mr Snowden, but Mr Putin appeared to rule that out yesterday, saying that pursuing such a course was like "shaving a piglet - there are lots of squeals, but little wool."

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