Plane for Havana Leaves Moscow Without Snowden
MOSCOW — Intrigue deepened Monday over the whereabouts of Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former national security contractor accused of espionage, when he did not leave Moscow on a planned flight to Havana, one day after Hong Kong frustrated his American pursuers by allowing him to fly out of the territory. The car of Ecuador’s ambassador at the Moscow airport. Ecuador confirmed getting an asylum request from Mr. Snowden.
Mr. Snowden’s vacant seat on the Havana flight raised the possibility that the Russian government had detained him, either to consider the demands by the Obama administration to intercept him and return him to the United States or perhaps to question him for Russia’s own purposes.
Mr. Snowden has not been seen publicly or photographed since his reported arrival in Moscow on Sunday afternoon from Hong Kong, and passengers on that flight interviewed at the airport could not confirm that he was on board.
The situation remained infuriating for American officials, who have charged Mr. Snowden with illegally disclosing classified documents about American surveillance programs.
On a visit to New Delhi, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that Russia should send Mr. Snowden to the United States. "I would urge them to live by the standards of the law,” Mr. Kerry said.
Security was extremely tight Monday at the gate at Sheremetyevo Airport as agents called for boarding the Aeroflot aircraft. Police officers in green, wide-brimmed hats stood around the plane on the tarmac, and the entrance to the gate inside the terminal was cordoned off with about 25 feet of blue ribbon.
Mr. Snowden was said to have reserved a ticket on the flight, Aeroflot 150, in coach seat 17A. But just before the plane pulled away, Nikolay Sokolov, an Aeroflot employee at the gate, said that Mr. Snowden was not on board. “He is not there,” Mr. Sokolov said. “I was waiting myself.” A police officer asked a member of the ground crew if everyone had arrived. The reply was: “Minus five.”
WikiLeaks has said that Mr. Snowden approached it for support and legal advice, and that it has advised him on seeking asylum and helped him get a temporary refugee travel document from Ecuador’s government to use after his American passport was revoked on Saturday.
In a telephone conference call with reporters on Monday morning, Julian Assange, the founder of the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, which has been championing Mr. Snowden, said that the fugitive was “healthy and safe” but declined to say where he was.
Speaking from his own refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Mr. Assange said that reports that Mr. Snowden had been questioned by Russian intelligence were false. Asked about reports that Mr. Snowden had been questioned by Chinese authorities, Mr. Assange said: “As far as I’m aware, that is false.”
Earlier on Monday, the group posted a message on Twitter criticizing the United States.
“US bullying Russia for Snowden’s rendition is counterproductive,” the group wrote. “No self-respecting state would accept such unlawful demands.” The use of “rendition” was an explicit reference to the way the United States has handled terrorism suspects.
The unwillingness of the Hong Kong authorities to detain Mr. Snowden, and Ecuador’s public declaration that it was considering his asylum request, underscored just how little sympathy the United States is finding from several countries over the unveiling of its surveillance efforts.
Russia had seemed intent on allowing Mr. Snowden to transit through Moscow but at the highest levels of the Russian government, officials seemed to be pulling a page from a cold war playbook, coyly denying any knowledge about Mr. Snowden.
“Over all, we have no information about him,” Dmitri Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, told Reuters early on Monday.
Nikolay N. Zakharov, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service, the F.S.B., declined to say if intelligence officials had met with Mr. Snowden during the time he spent at the transit area of the airport. Nor would Mr. Zakharov say if they had sought to examine the files of secrets he was said to be carrying on four computers.
“On this question, we will not comment,” Mr. Zakharov said.