MOSCOW: The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that fugitive United States (US) intelligence leaker Edward Snowden had not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela as was claimed by a top Russian lawmaker in a Twitter posting that was later deleted.
Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Alexei Pushkov sparked confusion when he tweeted Tuesday that Snowden had agreed to an offer from Caracas. He deleted the posting after about 30 minutes.
“Edward Snowden has not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela. The Russian lawmaker concerned has deleted the tweet,” WikiLeaks said on its Twitter account.
Pushkov does not officially speak for the Russian government but has close Kremlin connections and is believed to relay views similar to those of President Vladimir Putin.
The lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee chief said that “apparently this [Venezuelan] option looked like the most reliable one to Snowden.”
Putin’s spokesman declined to comment, saying all questions should be directed to Pushkov.
After removing his original post, Pushkov said in a separate message that he had learnt of the most recent development around Snowden from a news report on Russian state television channel Vesti 24.
He later rephrased his original message, saying Snowden had agreed to asylum in Venezuela, according to a Vesti 24 report.
“Venezuela finally received an answer from the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] former agent,” a news report on the channel’s website said.
“The President of the Latin American country, Nicolas Maduro, received an official political asylum request from Edward Snowden,” said the channel.
On Monday, Maduro called on Snowden to decide if he wanted to fly to Caracas.
“We have received the asylum request letter,” Maduro told reporters in Caracas after he offered the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor asylum along with the leaders of Bolivia and Nicaragua.
“He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here,” Maduro said. He called the offers from the three Latin American nations “collective humanitarian political asylum.”
It remains unclear how the world’s most famous refugee would be able to leave the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been marooned without valid documents since he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23.
There are no direct flights between Moscow and Caracas. The quickest way to get to Venezuela would be to fly via Havana.