Russian Official Deletes Tweet About Snowden Asylum

Jessica Corbett

A Russian lawmaker generated mass confusion Tuesday when he tweeted that NSA leaker Edward Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s offer of political asylum.Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower parliamentary house, tweeted, “Predictably, Snowden has agreed to [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro’s offer of political asylum. Apparently, this option appeared most reliable to Snowden.” (Translation from  Minutes later, Pushkov deleted the tweet from his feed, but not before it was spotted by reporters who assumed that Pushkov had insider information, and the "news" quickly made international headlines. After deleting his initial post, Pushkov claimed the information came from a state-run television news station, tweeting, “Information about Snowden accepting Maduro’s offer of asylum comes from the Vesti 24 newscast at 18:00. Contact them for all questions.”However, as the Chicago Tribune reported, “a representative of Rossiya-24 [also known as Vesti 24] said it had been referring to Pushkov's initial tweet.”The AP reported: The channel said Pushkov misunderstood its report on Maduro's comments Monday night during a meeting with Panama's president, which the anchorwoman introduced by saying, "Venezuela has finally received an answer" from Snowden. She then clarified that Maduro said Venezuela had received Snowden's official request and showed a clip of him saying in Russian voiceover that Snowden "should decide when to fly to Caracas, if he indeed has decided to come here."Thirty-year-old Snowden formerly worked for the CIA and the federal contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges regarding documents about NSA surveillance programs that he leaked to The Guardian in June.Snowden initially fled the U.S. to Hong Kong, and traveled to Russia on June 23. He is believed to be in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport transit zone.In addition to Venezeula's offer of political asylum, the presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua have said Snowden is welcome in their countries. However, it is unclear how Snowden would travel to any of these countries, as there are no direct flights from the Russian airport. Most of the more than 20 countries to which Snowden applied for asylum have denied his requests.

Jessica Corbett, a former In These Times intern, is a Maine-based staff writer at Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter at @corbett_jessica.
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