U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden has not left Moscow and may have to stay put at the Sheremetyevo Airport for weeks, if not months, till the time some country agrees to give him political asylum, according to a Russian security service official.
“Snowden will not fly out until he gets formal asylum because his passport has been cancelled,” a source in the Russian security services told the RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday.
Mr. Snowden is stuck at the Moscow airport for the past 10 days as U.S. authorities revoked his passport and Ecuador withdrew his “safe passage” travel papers after he left Hong Kong.
There was a lot of speculation in the media that Mr. Snowden may leave Moscow on Tuesday evening with either Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro or Bolivian President Evo Morales, who were in Moscow to attend a summit of gas exporting countries. Both leaders said they would consider Mr. Snowden’s request of asylum when they get it.
On the way back from Moscow, Mr. Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria and was searched by police on suspicion that Mr. Snowden could be onboard. Mr. Maduro flew from Moscow to Minsk, Belarus, as part of his European tour.
Mr. Snowden therefore is still in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo Airport and Russian authorities appear to be stretching the rules by letting the fugitive American stay there for so long.
The website of the Sheremetyevo Airport says that foreign passengers can stay at the airport without a Russian visa for 24 hours if they have a ticket for a connecting flight. In case of changes in flight schedule, they can get a Russian transit visit at the airport, producing a ticket and valid travel documents.
The website does not say what happens if a foreigner has no passport. Experts said decision may be taken on a case-by-case basis and in some cases passengers without travel papers are sent back.
In Mr. Snowden’s case, a political decision must have been taken to let him stay at the airport indefinitely, as President Vladimir Putin vowed not to extradite him to the U.S.