Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said after a Russian lawmaker posted a statement to that effect on Twitter and then deleted it.
WikiLeaks said on its own Twitter feed that states involved in deciding an asylum destination for Snowden, who fled the US last month, “will make the announcement if and when the appropriate time comes”.
Snowden, who is wanted in the US on espionage charges after revealing details of secret surveillance programmes, is believed to be holed up in the transit area at a Moscow airport where he arrived on June 23 from Hong Kong.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that he had decided to offer the 30-year-old American asylum. Nicaragua and Bolivia also have said they would take in Snowden, who has appealed to about 20 countries for political asylum.
Alexei Pushkov, the pro-Kremlin chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, tweeted that Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s asylum offer, but the tweet swiftly disappeared from his Twitter feed.
Pushkov later tweeted that he had seen the news on state-run Russian television channel Rossiya-24, but a representative of Rossiya-24 said it had been referring to Pushkov’s initial tweet.
“Edward #Snowden has not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela,” Wikileaks, whose British legal researcher Sarah Harrison is assisting Snowden and travelled to Moscow with him, later put on Twitter.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has said Snowden should choose a final destination and go there as soon as possible, but it is unclear how he would get to any of the Latin American countries offering asylum.
There are no direct commercial flights from Moscow to Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia.
Bolivia has accused Spain, France, Portugal and Italy of closing their skies to President Evo Morales’s plane last week after being told it was carrying Snowden from Moscow to Bolivia.
Spain said it was ready to apologise to Bolivia’s president for events that delayed his plane, foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said, but he again denied banning the jet from Spanish airspace on the belief that Snowden was aboard.
Bolivia has also accused France, Portugal and Italy of closing their skies to Morales’s plane after being told it was carrying Snowden from Moscow to Bolivia.
US authorities have urged nations around the world not to give him refuge.
“Mr Snowden ought to be returned to the United States where he is wanted on felony charges,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, adding that “he should not be permitted to engage in further international travel beyond the travel necessary to return to the United States”.
“And we’ve communicated that position with our Russian counterparts and with every country, broadly speaking, that has been discussed as a possible either transition point or destination point for Mr Snowden,” Carney added.
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