Fugitive ex-National Security Agency (NSA) staff Edward Snowden flew to Moscow on Sunday foiling a U.S. bid to have him arrested in Hong Kong for extradition.
Russian media reported that Snowden arrived on an Aeroflot plane at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport around 5:05 p.m. He is in transit to Ecuador via either Havana or Caracas, which have direct flights to Quito.
Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino confirmed via Twitter Sunday that Snowden has applied for political asylum and is flying to Quito via countries that will not extradite him to the U.S.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said they are helping Snowden fly to Ecuador. British Sarah Harrison, a member of the WikiLeaks legal defense team, fetched Snowden in Hong Kong and is with him in the Moscow airport.
Both Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are being sought by U.S. authorities for leaking classified U.S. information.
Snowden revealed to The Guardian and The Washington Post NSA’s clandestine collection of domestic call data and monitoring of Internet activity of Americans overseas as part of a counter-terrorism program. He obtained data on the surveillance programs while working at the NSA office in Hawaii.
The newspapers published his story on June 5 and 6 without revealing him as the source. Snowden later revealed himself as the source but he was already in Hong Kong. U.S. federal prosecutors charged him with theft of government property and espionage on June 14. On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department asked the Hong Kong government to arrest and extradite Snowden.
Hong Kong authorities did not immediately arrest Snowden because the U.S. request was reportedly lacking information. On Sunday, Hong Kong authorities informed the department of Snowden’s departure.
Assange is wanted since 2010 for posting on WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of confidential U.S. diplomatic cable provided to him by U.S. Army private Bradley Manning. He remains holed up at the Ecuadoran embassy in London after losing his legal battle against extradition to Sweden, where is facing sexual assault charges. He sought refuge at the embassy on June 19, 2012 after the British government refused to guarantee his safe passage to Ecuador.