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Snowden stopping in Moscow en route to Cuba, Russian says

June 23, 2013|By Sergei L. Loiko
  • Edward Snowden is shown during a local news program displayed on a giant monitor on a building in Hong Kong.
Edward Snowden is shown during a local news program displayed on a giant… (Jerome Favre / European…)

MOSCOW -- NSA leaker Edward Snowden is flying from Hong Kong to Havana via Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Sunday.

The former National Security Agency contractor is expected to land in Moscow at 5 p.m. Sunday, a Foreign Ministry official told the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity.

The next flight to Havana is Monday afternoon so Snowden most likely will spend his time in the transit zone of Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, he said.

“Snowden doesn’t have a Russian visa, and he can’t get outside the transit area of the airport,” the official said. “Even if there is an Interpol warrant for his arrest, of which we are not aware, our law enforcement agencies won’t be able to do that in the transit area.”

The official said Snowden is traveling in the company of at least one lawyer associated with WikiLeaks.

The Kremlin is not aware of Snowden’s plans, said Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman. “We know nothing about [Snowden’s] plans, whether he is coming to Moscow or not,” Peskov said.

Should Snowden ask for political asylum, Russia is ready “to consider his request,” Peskov said. “We have special procedures for such cases.”

Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy chief of the foreign relations committee of the Russian Parliament's lower house, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Russia granted asylum to Snowden.

“The United States and the West in general more than once granted asylum to Russian special services defectors, so if we do it for a change, I don’t think this will seriously harm our relations,” he said. “But at this point we are not aware of such intentions on his part.

“Snowden is visiting Moscow in transit, and where he will end up in the end and which country will dare to finally host him, we can’t say at this point,” he added.

sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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