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Snowden in transit zone of Moscow airport, will not be extradited to US: Putin

WASHINGTON: The transit lounge in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport has become the latest world hotspot with American whistleblower Edward Snowden reportedly stuck there amid a war of words between the United States and Russia.Snowden did not board a flight from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, for the second day running, even as Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov lashed back at US criticism for sheltering him, saying Snowden had not crossed the Russian border. That technicality indicated the man who the US sees as a fugitive is in the transit area of the airport, a fact confirmed later by Russian President Vladimir Putin.Both Putin and Lavrov suggested that Snowden is a free man and Russia had no reason to apprehend him, much less extradite him for lack of a treaty with the US that would allow it. They also seemed to suggest Snowden should soon be on his way without any interference from Russian officials.”I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world,” trying to distance Moscow from the whole affair.”He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with Algeria’s foreign minister, adding, “He did not cross the Russian border.”That left Snowden’s status in limbo. The US has revoked his American passport but Snowden’s Wikileaks patrons who are assisting his travels said he flew out of Hong Kong on temporary travel documents furnished by Ecuador. Indeed, Ecuadorian officials were said to have received him at the Moscow airport.It is not clear what has prevented Snowden from boarding the flight out of Moscow or how long he could stay in the airport’s transit lounge. His supporters are also said to be talking to Iceland and other countries to seek asylum for him.US officials meantime are mounting pressure on Ecuador — which has said it is considering Snowden’s asylum request — to reject him. The spunky South American country, which is ruled by a leftist govenment, has important economic ties with US, which accounts for nearly half its foreign trade and gives tariff-free access to its fruits, flowers, and sea food. In fact, the US dollar was made legal tender in Ecuador after a financial crisis in 1999, derecognizing its own currency called sucre.But that has not prevented the country from frequently twitting the US, including by giving Wikileaks’ Julian Assange refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been cooped up for nearly a year.  Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa said on Twitter that his country “will take the decision that we feel most suitable, with absolute sovereignty.”Part of the bravado comes from a long history of supporting radical causes. In fact, Ecuador once played host to Khalistan separatists, and was the only country in the world to recognize the Council of Khalistan as sort of government-in-exile, before better sense prevailed. The country later bought HAL’s Dhruv light helicopters.For now, Ecuador has made brave noises, but its ruling government will also face pressure from nearly 400,000 citizens who are dependent on US for jobs and income. On the flip side, the country has been emboldened by discovery of new oil and mining assets and closer ties with China.Like Russia and China, Ecuador too has taken the opportunity arising from the Snowden affair to lecture the United States on transparency, freedom, and human rights.

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