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Snowden remains stranded in Russian airport as Ecuador asylum may take months


13:59, June 27, 2013

MOSCOW, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden remained stranded on Wednesday for the fourth straight night in Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport, while Ecuador said its decision on his asylum could take no less than two months.

The U.S. fugitive under charges of espionage flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday, and remains hiding in the transit area of Moscow airport with his next destination undisclosed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Snowden's arrival in Moscow was "completely unexpected." During an official visit to Finland, he slammed U.S. accusations over Russia's involvement in the case as "ravings and rubbish."

Meanwhile, he noted that "the sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it would be for us and for himself."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Snowden was still in Moscow and Russia hoped that he could leave as soon as possible.

He said Snowden had personal freedom and had violated no Russian law nor entered the Russian territory. He was still at the transit area of the Sheremetyevo international airport, Lavrov said, adding that Snowden had the right to heading to any other place, and the sooner the better.

At the same time, the U.S. whisleblower's next destination is still unknown.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that he would consider an asylum request from Snowden if the country received one.

Belarussian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrei Savinykh denied rumors that Snowden had asked for political asylum in Belarus.

Earlier the first deputy chairman of the Russian Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov said Snowden can go from Moscow to Minsk.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino Aroca said Wednesday that there would be no quick decision from the Ecuadorian government on whether to grant asylum status to Snowden.

Patino said it would take no less than two months for the country's government to make a decision. He also said he had no information on the allegations by the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was helping Snowden, that the U.S. National Security Agency ex-contractor was given a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadorian government.

On the same day, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez warned that the preferential treatment for Ecuadorean goods could be ended if the South American country agreed to provide political asylum to Snowden.

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