QUITO, Ecuador — Edward Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador, the government said Sunday.
In a brief comment on his Twitter account, Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said simply: “The government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward Snowden.”
Although Patino gave no indication of whether the government of President Rafael Correa would grant the request, he had said previously that the government would consider such a request.
Correa previously granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is now holed up in Ecuador’s London Embassy. The British government has refused to allow Assange safe conduct to travel to Ecuador.
Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who is wanted by American authorities for leaking top-secret documents, is believed to have landed in Moscow earlier Sunday on a flight from Hong Kong. Russian news agencies have reported that he is awaiting a flight to Cuba, although there also were reports that he had been picked up at the airport by a car with either Ecuadorian or Venezuelan diplomatic license plates.
[Updated 10:53 a.m. June 23: A Russian foreign ministry official in Moscow, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times: “Snowden has not left the airport transit zone where he is still holding consultations with Ecuadorian diplomats. He intends to stay there until his flight to Cuba Monday, from where he is bound for Caracas,” the capital of Venezuela.
The official didn't know whether Snowden's ultimate destination was Ecuador, but there are no direct flights to Quito from Moscow, so he could be planning to transfer in Caracas.
Meanwhile, the Wikileaks organization issued a statement on its website saying it was helping Snowden get to Ecuador. "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," the statement said.]
There has been speculation that he might seek asylum in Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba or Iceland.
Vitieri is a special correspondent. Staff writer Sergei Loiko in Moscow and special correspondent Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.