Alexei Pushkov, a pro-Kremlin Russian politician and TV presenter, tweeted—then deleted—that Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked details of the US spy agency's surveillance activities, has agreed to asylum in Venezuela. Pushkov is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia's State Duma, and hosts the political television show Postscript.
The tweet, which was deleted moments after it was published, read, "As expected, Snowden has agreed to Maduro’s proposal. Apparently, this option seemed the most reliable to Snowden.”
About an hour later, he tweeted, ""The information that Snowden accepted an offer of asylum from Maduro came from an 18-hour release from 'Lead 24.' For further questions, contact them."
The "18 hour release" part of that tweet refers to what is basically an evening news update from vesti.ru, a nightly news program. Talk to them, he says; it's unclear why. The report he cites referred only to Monday's statement by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, in which Maduro said only that Venezuela had received a letter from Snowden seeking asylum.
Other news agencies in Russia, including Gazeta.ru, quickly echoed Pushkov's now-deleted tweet in reports.
Earlier, state news agencies in Russia and various outlets in US reported that Venezuela confirmed the whistleblower's asylum request. It's unclear what today's development really was.
Yesterday, we published a first-person account of one Venezuelan's experience with that state's own surveillance programs. Snowden is likely not a naïve man; the move would appear to be a measure of how unlikely he believes a fair trial within the United States to be, given the state's treatment of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning.
If the news is true, there's still another big question: how will Snowden get from Moscow to Venezuela? However he does it, he'd have to avoid all US-friendly airspace. Perhaps that previously-reported private jet? The United States has revoked his passport, rendering him effectively stateless, and he is reportedly holed up in a no-man's-land at a Moscow airport.
Asked Putin's spokesman about Snowden-->Venezuela: "I have never heard anything about that." Welcome back to confusion land.— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) July 9, 2013
He also said about @Alexey_Pushkov: "If I were in his shoes, I would never send such a tweet without knowing some information." Ouch.— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) July 9, 2013