MOSCOW — An Aeroflot flight bound for Havana that was expected to be carrying Edward Snowden and an associate reportedly took off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Monday afternoon without the two on board, leaving the whereabouts of the former National Security Agency contractor wanted on espionage charges a mystery.
As the plane started to roll across the tarmac for its takeoff after some delay, a correspondent for the Russian television news network Rossiya-24, who was on board the flight, reported that there was no sign of Snowden on board.
“I have looked over all of the plane and found no passengers answering Edward Snowden’s description,” Yevgeny Popov said in a report from the plane shortly before takeoff. “All the journalists (on board) are disappointed.”
A Russian Foreign Ministry official said he could not deny or confirm that Snowden, who faces felony charges in the U.S. for allegedly revealing secrets about government surveillance programs, was on the flight.
“We know that until the last moment Snowden was locked in consultations with two Ecuadorian diplomats in the transit zone of the airport, undecided whether he should fly today (Monday) or change the booking for a later date,” the official told the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity.
Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow under the cover of darkness on Sunday. He is believed to be seeking asylum in Ecuador.
It was not known whether Snowden, who is being assisted by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, had made other travel plans or, possibly, whether the Russian government had detained him under the Obama administration’s request to extradite him to the United States.
Distributed by MCT Information Services