NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s best chance of finding refuge outside the United States may hinge on the president of Venezuela, who was in Moscow on Tuesday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela told Russian reporters on Tuesday that his country has not received an application for asylum from Snowden and dodged the question of whether he would take Snowden away with him.
But Maduro also defended the former National Security Agency contractor who released sensitive documents on US intelligence-gathering operations.
“He did not kill anyone and did not plant a bomb,” Maduro said ahead of his meeting with Putin, the Interfax news agency reported. “What he did was tell a great truth in an effort to prevent wars. He deserves protection under international and humanitarian law.”
During his Kremlin meeting with Putin, Maduro spoke about plans to build on the strong ties with Russia formed under his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Neither he nor Putin mentioned Snowden in their public statements.
Snowden had initially booked flights to Havana, Cuba, and then on to Caracas, Venezuela, before becoming trapped in legal limbo in a Moscow airport more than a week ago.
Snowden withdrew his bid for asylum in Russia when he learned the terms Moscow had set out, according to Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Snowden also has applied for asylum in 20 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret spilling website, but many of those countries said he cannot apply from abroad.
Officials in Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland all said he must make his request on their soil.