Tuesday, July 9, 2013

 

Russian causes confusion with Venezuela asylum tweet

A Russian politician sparked a brief media storm claiming Edward Snowden, the US intelligence whistleblower, had agreed to an offer of political asylum from Venezuela, only to delete a Tweet referencing the offer minutes later.


The former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) computer technician has been stranded in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since June 23, after flying in from Hong Kong and having his passport revoked by US authorities.
He had sought asylum from more than 20 countries in an attempt to evade the US justice system after exposing a vast US surveillance programme but had been thus far rebuffed.
Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, initially said on Twitter: "As was expected, Snowden agreed to (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro's offer of political asylum.
"Apparently this option looked like the most reliable one to Snowden."
There was immediate confusion however as Mr Pushkov deleted the tweet, but not before it had been picked up by a number of media organisations. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Russian observers suggested that Mr Pushkov may have interpreted a report about Mr Snowden's earlier application to Venezuela for asylum.
President Maduro had said over the weekend that he was willing to offer Mr Snowden asylum.
"In the name of America's dignity, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden. He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world," he said on Friday.
Mr Pushkov has been an increasingly vocal presence on the Snowden affair. Earlier he described Venezuela's offer as Mr Snowden's "last chance" to seek political refuge.
Mr Snowden's asylum route could be fraught with difficulty as he would likely be forced to fly over European airspace. Several European countries have already appeared willing to shut their airspace to any aircraft that Mr Snowden was on board.
A plane carrying Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, was last week diverted from Moscow to Vienna and searched on suspicion of harbouring Mr Snowden. It was forced to stay in Austria for 13 hours.
Angry Bolivian officials said the plane had been forced to land because France, Portugal and Italy blocked it from flying over their territories, acting on orders from the US, which suspected Mr Snowden was being smuggled out of Russia.
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