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Snowden case may aggravate Russia-U.S. relations

June 24, 2013, 11:18 UTC+3

Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said if Snowden asks for political asylum in Russia, Moscow will consider his request

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On Sunday former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden accused of espionage arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong to fly through Cuba to Ecuador, where he will be granted political asylum. American senators have already warned Russians that their actions will not remain unanswered. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government said Snowden left “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”

Moskovsky Komsomolets recalled that Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Snowden had sought asylum in his country, which is ready to consider his request. Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said if Snowden asks for political asylum in Russia, Moscow will consider his request.

Edward Snowden has been hiding at least for three weeks in Hong Kong, from where he disclosed U.S. secret services’ surveillance operations, backing his information with documents he had taken from the U.S. National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Service.

Snowden’s main consultant is the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who has been hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for a year now. He proposed Edward Snowden to ask for asylum in Ecuador or in Russia. On Sunday evening Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino wrote in his Twitter blog that “the country’s government has received Edward Snowden’s request for political asylum.”

Later it became known that Snowden left for Moscow, from where he should take an Aeroflot SU 150 flight to Cuba and further to Venezuela. Snowden was accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for WikiLeaks. The Kommersant business daily wrote that according to some information, the former spy agent was taken by a car of the Ecuadorian Embassy directly from the gangway.

“Snowden cannot be taken from the airport even by a car with diplomatic plates, as he had neither ordinary nor diplomatic visa,” the source said. He said while waiting for a flight to Cuba Snowden might have spent night at a capsule hotel located in Sheremetyevo Terminal E transit zone.

Moscow’s joining the process of granting political asylum to Snowden may cause a new aggravation of relations between the United States and Russia, Kommersant wrote. U.S. influential senator warned on Sunday that the U.S. secret services “will chase Snowden to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”

Moscow takes these accusations and reproaches calmly and does not fear a new conflict with the United States. The head of the State Duma international affairs committee, Alexei Pushkov, said the United States has not thought of any possible consequences, when it eavesdropped on conversations of then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 summit in London in 2009 and “does not think of any conflict situations, when their spy disguised in wig is caught red-handed when he tries to recruit to the CIS a Russian secret officer.”

Experts interviewed by the Izvestiya daily believe that Snowden’s flight to Moscow was coordinated with the Russian authorities and secret services. The president of the International Counterterrorism Training Association, Iosif Linder, said the fact that Edward Snowden found himself onboard Aeroflot’s plane, which is under the international laws considered as the territory of Russia, proves that he coordinated his flight with the Russian authorities and secret services in advance.

“In principle what Snowden had made public is the news for ordinary residents. Special services know this information even without this,” Linder said.

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