Snow Joke As Edward Gives America The Run Around

The United States has increased pressure on Russia to hand over former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is believed to be hiding out in Moscow while waiting for news of an asylum request to Ecuador.

However Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Snowden has not crossed into Russian territory, rejecting US demands to extradite the National Security Agency leaker, who continues to evade justice.

Lavrov said that accusing Russia of “violation of US laws and even some sort of conspiracy” with regard to Snowden is “absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable.”

Snowden, charged with disclosing secret U.S. surveillance programs, left Hong Kong for Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday, starting a manhunt that has frayed ties between Washington and Beijing and threatens U.S.-Russia relations.

The American would need a Russian visa to leave the transit area of the airport but the 30-year-old has not been spotted by journalists camped out there.

President Vladimir Putin, who is not shy of celebrating people who challenge Washington, has ignored U.S. requests to send Snowden home.

A spokesman said the Kremlin has no information on him, suggesting Moscow does not want to further alienate President Barack Obama, who has tried to rebuild relations with Russia..

The U.S. State Department said diplomats and Justice Department officials were holding discussions with Russia, suggesting they were looking to broker a deal to secure his return to face espionage charges.

Russian officials say they can do little to fulfill the U.S. request to expel him if he is still in the airport transit area and not on Russian territory.

Snowden, whose exposure of the surveillance raised questions about civil liberties in the United States, flew to Moscow after being allowed to leave Hong Kong, even though Washington had asked the Chinese territory to detain him pending possible extradition.

Snowden, a former NSA contractor , had been expected to fly to Havana from Moscow on Monday and eventually go on to Ecuador, according to sources at the Russian airline Aeroflot.

But he was not seen on the Aeroflot flight that landed in Havana on Monday evening. Seat 17A had reportedly been set aside for Snowden, but reporters aboard said it was occupied by another person. It was not clear whether the plane had a section in which the American could have been concealed.

Julian Assange, founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks which is assisting Snowden, said Snowden had fled to Moscow en route to Ecuador and was in good health in a “safe place” but he would not disclose his location.

There is no direct flight from Moscow to Quito, which has said it was considering Snowden’s request. Ecuador is a member of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their anti imperialist credentials. The Quito government have been sheltering Assange in their London embassy for the past year. Should he emerge from the embassy he will be instantly be arrested by British police who have spent £3 million waiting to arrest the Australian born Wikileaks founder in the past year.

With Snowden’s whereabouts still a mystery, Obama, may face prolonged embarrassment from Snowden.

Obama told reporters his government was “following all the appropriate legal channels working with various other countries to make sure the rule of law is observed”.

But U.S. officials said intelligence agencies were concerned that they did not know how much sensitive material Snowden had in his possession and that he may have taken more documents than initially estimated.

He could publish more documents or they could get into the hands of foreign intelligence. The Kremlin denies knowledge of any contacts between Russian officials and Snowden, despite media speculation the security forces could be questioning him.

America has defended their attempts to bring Snowden into U.S. custody and said his choices of where to flee belied his assertion that he was focused on supporting transparency, freedom of the press and individuals’ rights.

U.S. officials reserved most of their criticism for China for helping Snowden leave despite the arrest warrant. China, in turn, has expressed “grave concern” over Snowden’s allegations that the United States had hacked Chinese computers.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Snowden’s activities could threaten the security of China and the United States.

“People may die as a consequence to what this man did,”. “It is possible that the United States would be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn’t know before.”

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