Seeking Snowden

People sit onboard an Aeroflot Airbus A330 heading to the Cuban capital Havana at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airportMOSCOW — A Russian passenger plane left Moscow for Havana today without any sign of former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden on board, witnesses said.

Cuba is considered a possible destination for Snowden on his way to Ecuador, where he is seeking asylum.

The 30-year-old American is wanted in the United States on espionage charges and is thought to have remained in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since flying in from Hong Kong on Sunday.

Russia carrier Aeroflot confirmed the plane’s departure but declined comment on the passenger list. Airline sources had said earlier today that Snowden had not registered foe the flight.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama saidtoday he had not yet spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping or Russian President Vladimir Putin about the US request to extradite Snowden.

Speaking at a news conference in Senegal at the start of an African tour, Obama said normal legal channels should be sufficient to handle Washington’s request that Snowden, who left Hong Kong for Russia, be returned.

“I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally and the reason is … number one, I shouldn’t have to,” Obama said.

“Number two, we’ve got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia, and I’m not going to have one case of a suspect who we’re trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues,” Obama said.

Snowden has become an embarrassment for the Obama administration after he leaked details of secret US government surveillance programmes.

His fate is now the focus of an international wrangle pitting the United States against its frequent opponents in the UN Security Council, China and Russia.

Snowden is expected to fly to Havana en route to Ecuador, where he has asked for asylum.

In the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, the government said it had not processed Snowden’s asylum request because he had not reached any of its diplomatic premises.

Bristling at suggestions Quito was weighing the pros and cons of Snowden’s case in terms of its own interests, officials also said Ecuador would waive its preferential trade rights under a soon-to-expire treaty with the United States. (Reuters)

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