Edward Snowden, who is accused in the United States of treason, registered on Monday for a Moscow-Havana flight, but the plane took off without him on board. The whereabouts of the former CIA officer are currently unknown. Experts don’t rule out that the developments may trigger the worsening of ties between the US and Russia. Several dozen reporters examined the plane looking for Snowden, but in vain, the Kommersant daily reports. Seats 17A and 17C, booked in his name and in the name of Sara Harrison accompanying him remained empty, according to a reporter from the newspaper having seat 17D. The absence of Edward Snowden on board was confirmed by security service officers. This meant that he could fly to Havana by another plane, and security remained heavy in Terminal D. According to another version, voiced by a source “knowing the situation”, Snowden had already left Moscow unnoticed.
However, irrespective of how Edward Snowden decided to reach Ecuador, the scandal around the CIA analyst on the run threatens to aggravate relations of the United States with Russia and China, the newspaper believes. American lawmakers almost unanimously accused Moscow and Beijing of waging a secret war against Washington, threatening that this will not go unpunished.
According to Bruce Riedel, an expert from the Brookings Institution, Washington and a 30-year veteran of the CIA, efforts of the administration to normalize relations with Beijing and Moscow have been dealt a pretty big setback. He said that over the recent month, Barack Obama has held talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, but the story with Snowden, whose “story line has changed pretty dramatically from a single whistleblower to maybe someone who’s been working with foreign intelligence agencies in the last few weeks” may cancel any agreements, the expert believes.
The US Department of Justice handed over to Moscow an official request for his extradition. And several hours before Snowden left Hong Kong, the Department of State had annulled his passport.
In reply, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pledged that the Russian authorities had never contacted Snowden. And representatives of power-wielding agencies make it clear that Russia has no grounds for arresting the American national, as he committed no crimes on the Russian territory and is not on the international wanted list.
The chairman of the presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Fedor Lukyanov, is cited by the Novye Izvestia daily as saying that the damage for Russian-US relations may be limited if Snowden did leave or will leave Russia. “It will be stressed one more time that we are not allies with the United States,” he told the newspaper. “But actually there are no and have never been illusions upon that. This will be a permanent splinter in Russian-American relations. But I personally believe that Russia is not interested in his staying here,” he stressed.
The newspaper reminds the readers that a lot of people that Russian law enforcement agencies have claims to have found refuge in the US. Former KGB officer Oleg Kalugin and Chechen separatist leader Ilyas Akhmadov are among them.
The director of the Roosvelt Foundation United States Studies at Moscow State University, Yuri Rogulev, told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that “Snowden is in Russia in transit, and our country has nothing to do with that. He did not commit any crimes on the Russian territory, and there is no request to detain him in the official database of the Interpol. Snowden has his lawyers, his team that develops his line of conduct. Besides, in my opinion, he has not revealed anything particular. These so-called secrets may sound shocking for the public, but most likely the secret services have long known this information,” he said. “It is difficult to say how the situation will develop further. Snowden intended to go to Latin America, where anti-American moods flourish. Let us see how this will end, but in any case Russia has nothing to fear,” Rogulev added.