MOSCOW, June 23 (RIA Novosti) – Former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden is en route from Hong Kong to Moscow heading to a third destination, the French news agency AFP reported on Sunday, referring to the South China Morning Post.
“US whistle blower Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong and is on a commercial flight to Russia, but Moscow will not be his final destination,” the South China Morning Post said.
It has been previously reported that Snowden could seek political asylum in Iceland or Ecuador.
According to the newspaper, Snowden boarded Aeroflot Flight SU213, which is scheduled to land at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport at 5.15 pm local time (1.15 GMT).
Snowden, 30, who worked for US defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, hit the media spotlight in early June after he leaked to press information about an extensive surveillance program by the US government, which allegedly monitored phone and electronic conversations of millions of Americans.
A source close to Aeroflot told Prime news agency that Snowden was flying via Moscow to Cuba.
“He is flying to Moscow as a stopover and farther on to Cuba, the source said.
Russian ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unidentified Aeroflot official as saying Snowden would fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and then take a flight to Caracas, Venezuela.
The Hong Kong government announced on Sunday afternoon that it had allowed Snowden’s departure from its territory. The government statement said that Hong Kong had informed the United States of Snowden’s departure, The New York Times reported.
Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong, to which he moved from the United States before leaking top secret documents about US surveillance programs, comes as a setback for the US, which had been pressing Hong Kong to surrender him to American law enforcement officials.
The Hong Kong government said on Sunday in its first detailed statement about Snowden that the United States had made a legal request for a provisional warrant of arrest against Snowden but that the Hong Kong government had concluded that the request “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law,” The New York Times said.
(Updates with paragraphs 6-11)