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Flight reportedly carrying Snowden lands in Moscow

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-06-23 23:37

MOSCOW - An Aeroflot flight reportedly carrying a former National Security Agency contractor sought by the United States for revealing classified surveillance programs landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday.

Flight SU213 from Hong Kong landed at Terminal F at 17:05 Moscow time (1305 GMT), but the airport could not verify reports that Edward Snowden was on the plane, airport press officer Roman Genis told Xinhua.

Passengers are required to pass through customs and a passport control zone before entering the arrivals area of the terminal. Some passengers from SU213 flight said they had no idea whether Snowden, 29, was on their plane.

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unnamed Aeroflot official as saying Snowden was on Flight SU213. The report said Snowden intended to fly to Cuba on Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

Xinhua reporters saw two cars from the Ecuadorian embassy in Russia parked outside the Moscow airport. One car later left with embassy workers. Embassy employees refused to comment on whether they were going to pick up Snowden.

Snowden reportedly was accompanied by a woman identified only as Sara Harrison on the flight to Moscow, according to some reports.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong on May 20 after exposing two highly classified NSA surveillance programs, one collecting U.S. phone records and the other mining Internet data.

Since Snowden doesn't have a Russian visa, he likely will stay in the airport terminal until boarding Flight SU150 to Havana, Cuba, and a flight to Caracas, Venezuela, local media reported.

A Russian News channel said Snowden would board the Havana-bound flight at 02:00 Moscow time Monday (2200 GMT Sunday).

Some unverified reports said other possible destinations include Iceland and Ecuador.

Police at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport said earlier they had no plans to detain Snowden if he holds a valid visa.

"We have not received any instructions concerning this person. However, in order to enter Russian territory he should have a valid visa," the Interfax news agency quoted an airport police officer as saying.

Earlier Sunday, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China confirmed that Snowden had left the region.

"Snowden has left Hong Kong through legal and normal means for a third country," the HKSAR government said in a statement.

"The government has informed the U.S. government of Snowden's departure from Hong Kong," the statement said.


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