US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden may be forced to stay in Russia permanently because the United States is “bullying” possible intermediary countries, the WikiLeaks organisation has said.
WikiLeaks, which is led by fugitive former computer hacker Julian Assange, has said it helped Snowden flee Hong Kong at the weekend and that one of its staff members is believed to be with him in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Snowden – who had been expected to board a flight for Cuba on Monday, reportedly on his way to seek asylum in Ecuador – was still in a Moscow airport transit zone, after the country’s foreign minister earlier denied knowing even if Snowden was in Russia.
“Cancelling Snowden’s passport and bullying intermediary countries may keep Snowden permanently in Russia,” WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed, without specifying which other countries it was referring to.
“Not the brightest bunch at State,” it said, referring to the US State Department.
The comments were the first by WikiLeaks on the issue for more than 24 hours.
Assange said on Monday the government of Ecuador had issued Snowden a “refugee document of passage” after the United States revoked the former National Security Agency contractor’s passport but refused to confirm his whereabouts.
WikiLeaks had paid for Snowden’s escape and had provided him with a legal adviser, British WikiLeaks staff member Sarah Harrison, who was travelling with the US fugitive, Assange said.