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article imageEdward Snowden stranded in Moscow airport with invalid passport

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 27, 2013 in World
Moscow - Russia Today is reporting that with no valid passport, the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden might be stranded in the transit area of Russia's Sheremetyevo Airport indefinitely.
The flurry of activity over the international fugitive's whereabouts and the US's feverish diplomatic efforts to have him returned to face espionage charges have come to a lull following the blunt refusal of Russian authorities to grant the demands of the US government for this extradition, in spite of the latter's insistence that there are legal basis for its demands.
RT is reporting that Snowden's stopover in the transit zone at Sheremetyevo airport could continue indefinitely because the US government annulled his passport on Saturday, leaving him without necessary documentation to continue his journey.
According to the Russian Interfax agency, a source said: "Snowden’s American passport is void and he is not in possession of any other document with which he can prove his identity. For this reason, he has to stay in Sheremetyevo’s transit zone and cannot leave Russia nor buy a ticket."
Current speculations are that he will likely leave Russia eventually for Ecuador, Venezuela, Ireland, Cuba or any other country willing to accept him without a valid passport. According to RT's Irinia Galushko, journalists are on the look out for him at the airport's transit zone. Galushko said: "Obviously he has to go to someplace which doesn't require a passport and not in friendly relations with the United States. So Havana, Cuba, seems to be the most obvious choice."
It appears that Snowden and his WikiLeaks helpers are temporarily stuck and are not making any progress with arranging a final destination. Snowden was unable to board the latest flight that departed Thursday from Moscow to Cuba and is not booked to travel out of Russia over the next three days. A representative of Russia's national airline, Aeroflot, confirmed to Reuters that "They are not flying today and not over the next three days. They are not in the system."
With Putin having stated that "The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and Russia," the team might be under pressure to conclude a travel plan.
Also, with Digital Journal reporting that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has stated that the country is considering asylum for the former CIA agent, it could only be a matter of time for things to get sorted out finally.
During a visit to Haiti, Maduro reportedly said: "We would consider it, because the asylum is a measure of humanitarian protection and is a mechanism of the international humanitarian law, which is popular in Latin America and was always used to protect helpless."
He added: "No one has the right to spy after someone else and this youngster [Snowden], who told the world about it, deserves humanitarian protection."
Although WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had said that the Ecuadorian government granted Snowden special refugee documents, a top official of the country, Galo Galarza, denied the claim on Wednesday, saying Snowden has not been granted any refugee document.
He said: "He [Snowden] does not have a document issued by Ecuador, such as a passport or a refugee card, as speculated."
Digital Journal reported that Snowden had applied for asylum in Ecuador and was set to travel to the country via Cuba, but journalists who had boarded the plane he was supposed to fly in were surprised when he failed to show up. RT quotes RIA-Novosti saying that two tickets he bought for a flight to Havana on Tuesday were returned just before departure.
A reconciliation of the conflicting statements suggests that Ecuador might have initially agreed to grant him special refugee status but began foot-dragging over the issue due probably to threats or renewed diplomatic pressure.
WikiLeaks issued a Twitter statement on Tuesday warning against "cancelling Snowden's passport" stating that "bullying intermediary countries may keep Snowden permanently in Russia."
That Ecuador might have received specific threats or come under some form of direct diplomatic pressure appears the case. Digital Journal reported that a State Department official said the US was in touch with the countries that it believes Snowden could pass through or approach for asylum. AP also reports that Ecuador’s foreign minister said it could take up to two months to decide whether to grant asylum to Snowden and that when taking a decision it would carefully consider the implications to its relations with the Us. According to AP, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told visitors in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: "It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time."
RT reports that hordes of journalists armed with laptops and cameras looking out for Snowden or anyone who has seen him or talked to him recently have taken over the Moscow airport. But so far no one has caught a glimpse of him. An AP reporter who entered the transit area by flying in from Kiev was unable to sight him.
RIA Novosti reports that staff at the Air Express Capsule Hotel in Terminal E of Sheremetyevo airport confirmed that he spent some time in one of their suites "but left a long time ago."
The almost complete absence of clues about his whereabouts in the transit zone has led to speculations that the Russian authorities are keeping him for interrogation. AP notes that the "departure and transit area is huge and has dozens of small rooms, some labeled 'authorized personnel only,' where someone could potentially seek refuge with support from airport staff or security personnel. And security forces or police patrolling the area can easily whisk a person out of this area through back doors or corridors."
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