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Edward Snowden remains at Moscow airport as asylum offers arrive

July 06, 2013|By Sergei L. Loiko
  • A supporter of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega waves a Venezuelan flag, center, at a political rally in Managua. Nicaragua and Venezuela have expressed willingness to take in NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
A supporter of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega waves a Venezuelan flag,… (Mario Lopez, EPA )

MOSCOW -- Fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden was still holed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo-2 airport as finally -- out of two dozen countries to which he applied -- Venezuela and Nicaragua extended offers of asylum.

“As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live in the homeland” of Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar and the late President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday.

Over the last few days, Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who divulged U.S. security secrets and is now a fugitive, reportedly applied for asylum first to 15 countries and later to six more.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said last week that it would be best both for Snowden and Russia if he could leave soon. On Saturday a senior Parliament official hailed the Venezuelan offer as a workable choice.

“For Snowden asylum in Venezuela could be the best decision,” Alexei Pushkov, the chief of the Parliament’s lower house foreign relations committee, tweeted. “This country is in sharp conflict with the United States.

“He can’t live at Sheremetyevo, can he,” the lawmaker wrote.

Despite the offers extended Saturday, Snowden still cannot leave the airport's transit zone, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said.

“He can’t buy a ticket and travel anywhere until he gets a valid set of traveling documents,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “For this reason he was not on the list of passengers for a Havana-bound flight today and he hasn’t booked a seat for a Monday flight either.

"Snowden will be able to travel out of Russia as soon as Venezuela or Nicaragua equips him with some valid foreign travel ID now that they offered him asylum," the official added.

Experts agree Havana is the safest transit point for Snowden to use en route to Caracas, a city to which Moscow has no direct flights.

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sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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