Senior Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov tweeted on Tuesday that Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor and now-infamous whistleblower, had accepted Venezuela’s offer of asylum—only to delete the tweet a short time later.
After removing the post from his Twitter feed, Pushkov then tweeted that he had heard the story on Russian state-run television news channel Rossiya-24; however, a representative from the station stated that the story was in reference to Pushkov’s first tweet.
Snowden is wanted in the United States on espionage charges after releasing secret information regarding NSA surveillance programs, resulting in widespread condemnation as well as support. He has appealed to about 20 countries for asylum, and has allegedly been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since his departure from Hong Kong on June 23. Venezuela was the first country to offer Snowden asylum, followed by Bolivia. Nicaragua has also expressed willingness to consider granting Snowden asylum. WikiLeaks, which has offered support to Snowden in his quest for asylum, has promised through Twitter to confirm when his asylum decision has been made.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Snowden to pick a place and leave Russia as soon as possible. However, the logistics surrounding Snowden’s next destination remain foggy. The United States has encouraged countries around the world to deny Snowden refuge, which will make it exceedingly difficult for Snowden to travel to whatever country he chooses. Recently, the Bolivian presidential place was grounded in Vienna due to allegations that Snowden was aboard, angering Bolivian President Evo Morales and providing proof of the difficulty of Snowden’s pending journey.
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President of Expert Aviation Consulting Kirk Koenig told CNN that Snowden’s only choice would likely be to charter a flight entirely over water in order to avoid being grounded by countries in support of the United States.
In an appearance on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, summed up the Snowden situation as it currently stands. “It’s very clear that any of these countries that accept Snowden and offer him political asylum is taking a step against the United States,” Menendez said. “It’s making a very clear statement.”