The government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward Snowden, according to an official from the country.
Snowden, who had been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks after he revealed information on highly classified spy programs conducted by the National Security Agency, landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport at around 9:15 a.m. ET, reporter Kevin O'Flynn told CBS. Various reports predicted his final destination could be Cuba, Ecuador, Iceland or Venezuela.
Ricardo Patiño Aroca, Ecuador's Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted the news on Sunday:
The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden
— Ricardo Patiño Aroca (@RicardoPatinoEC) June 23, 2013
WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group, has said it is working with Snowden, claiming he's bound for an unnamed "democratic nation via a safe route for the purpose of asylum."
The Associated Press reports:
QUITO, Ecuador — The former National Security Agency contractor wanted for revealing classified secrets is seeking asylum in the South American country of Ecuador, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Sunday.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks also announced that Edward Snowden "is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks." The organization's founder Julian Assange, was granted asylum by Ecuador last year and has been staying at the country's embassy in the United Kingdom.
Snowden was on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow Sunday and was booked on a flight to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials. The reports said he intended to travel from Cuba to Caracas, Venezuela. There was also speculation that he might try to reach Ecuador.
Snowden had been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks after he revealed information on the highly classified spy programs. WikiLeaks said it was providing legal help to Snowden at his request and that he was being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from the group.
Assange has spent a year inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about sex crime allegations. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organization is in a position to help because it has expertise in international asylum and extradition law.
UPDATE -- 1:07 p.m.: WikiLeaks has released the following statement:
Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.
Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.
Former Spanish Judge Mr Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Julian Assange has made the following statement:
"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people".
UPDATE -- 1:28 p.m.: The United States has revoked Snowden's passport, CNN confirms.
This story is developing and has been updated.