MOSCOW — Moscow’s main airport swarmed with journalists from around the globe Wednesday, but the man they were looking for, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, was nowhere to be seen.
The mystery of his whereabouts only deepened a day after President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden was in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport.
There were ordinary scenes of duty free shopping, snoozing travelers and tourists sipping coffee but no trace of America’s most famous fugitive. If Putin’s statement is true, it means that Snowden has effectively lived a life of airport limbo since his weekend flight from Hong Kong, especially with his American passport now revoked by U.S. authorities.
Adding to the uncertainty, Ecuador’s foreign minister said it could take up to two months to decide whether to grant asylum to Snowden and the Latin American nation would take into consideration its relations with the U.S. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino compared Snowden’s case to that of Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
“It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time,” Patino told reporters during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, later in the day he said on Twitter that the decision could happen “in a day, a week, or, as happened with Assange, it could take two months.”
Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend and flew to Russia. He booked a seat on a Havana-bound flight Monday en route to Venezuela but didn’t board the plane. His ultimate destination was believed to be Ecuador.
An Associated Press reporter entered the transit area where Snowden is purportedly staying by flying from Kiev, Ukraine. It serves both connecting passengers traveling via Moscow to onward destinations and passengers departing from Moscow who have passed border and security checks.
Hundreds of Russian and foreign tourists awaited flights on Wednesday, watching as Aeroflot planes landed and took off.