Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Sunday said that the fate of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is in the hands of Russia, where he is currently staying, awaiting asylum from the South American country.
"This is the decision of Russian authorities," Correa told the Associated Press in an interview. "He doesn't have a passport. I don't know the Russian laws, I don't know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can't. At this moment he's under the care of the Russian authorities.
“If he arrives at an Ecuadorean Embassy we'll analyze his request for asylum," he said.
Snowden, a former government contractor, is facing espionage charges in the U.S. after he admitted to leaking classified documents detailing the NSA’s secret surveillance of phone and Internet traffic. He fled to Hong Kong shortly before the disclosures became public and then took a flight to Moscow where he is believed to be staying in a transit area at the airport.
Hong Kong and Russian officials both refused to honor a U.S. extradition request for Snowden, who has asked Ecuador for political asylum. Russian President Vladimir Putin last week called him a “free man” and said Moscow had no control over him since he had not left the transit area and entered Russian territory.
Correa ‘s comments further complicate Snowden’s situation. The U.S. revoked his passport after his arrival in Moscow and administration officials have been pressing their counterparts in Russia and Ecuador to not give the admitted leaker refuge.
Correa said Saturday that Vice President Joe Biden had called him to urge that his country not grant Snowden’s asylum request.
In an interview with Reuters, Correa described the call as “cordial” but criticized U.S. lawmakers who have threatened to block trade preferences for Ecuador.
“Ecuador will not be pressured or blackmailed by anyone,” Correa said.
In the interview, Correa said he understood that Snowden broke U.S. laws by leaking classified information.
“If he really could have broken North American laws, I am very respectful of other countries and their laws and I believe that someone who breaks the law must assume his responsibilities,” Correa told the AP.