Edward Snowden — the fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor — appears to be stuck in Moscow, unable to leave without a valid American passport, according to interviews Sunday with two men who had sought to aid him: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.
Snowden, 30, arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport last weekend, after previously taking refuge in Hong Kong. Moscow was only supposed to be a stopover. WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, had said Snowden was headed on to Ecuador — whose leftist president has been critical of the United States — and that he would seek asylum there.
Now, however, both men said Snowden is unable to leave.
“The United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia,” said Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” The United States canceled Snowden’s passport last weekend. Assange criticized the United States, saying: “To take a passport from a young man in a difficult situation like that is a disgrace.”
Correa spoke to the Associated Press in Puerto Viejo, Ecuador. For now, Correa told the AP, Snowden was “under the care of the Russian authorities.”
“This is the decision of Russian authorities. He doesn’t have a passport. I don’t know the Russian laws, I don’t know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can’t,” Correa said. He said that the case was now out of Ecuador’s hands. “If (Snowden) arrives at an Ecuadoran Embassy, we’ll analyze his request for asylum.”
Snowden traveled from Hong Kong to Moscow on his U.S. passport. Although the U.S. had already revoked it, Hong Kong authorities said they hadn’t received the official request to cancel the passport before Snowden left.
An official at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London (where Assange himself has been holed up for a year, avoiding extradition to face sex-crimes charges in Sweden) had also issued a letter of safe passage for Snowden. But Snowden apparently did not use it for his trip to Moscow.
And it doesn’t appear that the Ecuadoran government would make a similar gesture again.
On Sunday, Correa told the AP that an Ecuadoran official at that embassy had committed “a serious error” by issuing the first letter without consulting officials back home.