Edward J. Snowden, the US intelligence leaker, has fled to Moscow, according to the Hong Kong government. A reservation agent at Aeroflot, Russia’s national air carrier, confirmed that Snowden was aboard flight SU213, with a one-way ticket, bound for Moscow. The flight is scheduled arrive in the Russian city little after 5 p.m. local time.
Now considered a fugitive, Snowden left the country voluntarily, Hong Kong government officials said.
According to sources, the US Government had contacted Hong Kong to extradite him in order to bring him back to the US to stand trial. But Hong Kong claims it could not process the request because the documents presented by Washington did not “fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”
Hong Kong in, a statement, said that it had requested more clarification from the US but had not yet received it. Because the government “has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong,” the government’s statement said.
According to sources the Hong Kong government has also written to Washington asking for “clarification” regarding revelations by Snowden that the US had targeted Hong Kong-based computer networks.
On June 14, Federal prosecutors filed espionage charges against Snowden in Federal court in Alexandria, Va., in order to begin the process of getting him back to the United States to stand trial. These charges were made public last Friday.
Under the espionage law, Snowden was charged with several violations, including theft of government property, disclosing national defense information to sources without a security clearance and revealing classified information about “communications intelligence.”
Concerning Snowden’s departure for Russia, Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, said the Kremlin had not been informed of Snowden’s plans.
“I don’t know if he is coming with a visa or without a visa,” Peskov said. “We are not tracing his movements. I am not sure if he is coming. If he is coming, we will wait and see.”
He added that Snowden’s application for asylum in Russia would be considered, if he decides to apply, adding that every application is considered.
“There is a procedure, and it will be applied,” he said. “If there is an application, it is going to be considered. If there is no application, we will do what is prescribed by law will be performed.”
When asked by reporters what the law prescribes in the latter case, Peskov said, “you’d have to ask the police about that.”
He said Mr. Snowden’s case was not fundamentally a concern of the Russian government.
“The Russian government in any case is not the proper place to communicate,” he said. “It is not an issue for us. It is not an issue for the Kremlin. Well, let’s wait. We will be watching.”
Snowden left the US after leaking details of his work as an analyst at the National Security Agency and the extensive US surveillance program to Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.
By Perviz Walji