By Jim Heintz Associated Press
MOSCOW — The net of rumors and uncertainties over NSA leaker Edward Snowden deepened Tuesday when a prominent Russian lawmaker tweeted that Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s offer of political asylum, then deleted the posting a few minutes later.
It was not possible to immediately reach Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee who has acted as an unofficial point-man for the Kremlin on the Snowden affair. But soon after the posting on his Twitter account disappeared, he sent another message saying his claim was based on a report from the state all-news television channel Vesti.
However, no such information could be found on Vesti’s website and no Russian news agency reported that Vesti had reported it. The TV channel could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Kremlin declined comment on Tuesday’s developments.
Snowden, who revealed details of a U.S. intelligence program to monitor Internet activity, came to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on June 23 and was believed to be headed for Cuba. But he did not board that flight and has not been seen publicly since. He is widely believed to still be in the airport’s transit zone.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Saturday his country hadn’t yet been in contact with Snowden, who has been unable to travel further because the U.S. annulled his passport.
For Snowden to leave for South America, he would need for Venezuela to issue him travel documents and he would need to find a way to get there. The only direct commercial flight from Moscow stops in Havana, Cuba.
The Moscow-Havana flight goes over Europe and the U.S., which could cause complications. Some European countries refused to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales to fly through their airspace on his way home from Moscow last week because of suspicions that Snowden was on his plane.
The presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua also said over the weekend that Snowden was welcome in their countries.