A Russian passenger plane left Moscow for Havana on Thursday without any sign of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden on board, witnesses said.
Russia carrier Aeroflot confirmed the plane’s departure but declined comment on the passenger list. Airline sources had said earlier on Thursday that Snowden had not registered for the flight.
Cuba is considered a possible destination for Snowden on his way to Ecuador, where he is seeking asylum.
The 30-year-old American is wanted in the United States on espionage charges and is thought to have remained in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since flying in from Hong Kong on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa hit back at US media criticism for considering Snowden's asylum request, saying media coverage on the whistleblower is distracting the world from the surveillance programmes that he revealed.
Correa made his strongest comments to date about the case on Twitter in response to a Washington Post editorial that referred to him as “the autocratic leader of tiny, impoverished Ecuador” and accused him of a double standard for welcoming a whistleblower while allegedly stifling critics at home.
“They’ve managed to focus attention on Snowden and on the ‘wicked’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the US people and the whole world that he denounced.”
“The world order isn’t only unjust, it’s immoral,” Correa continued, taking an aggressive new rhetorical tack on the case.
Ecuador’s acting foreign minister, Galo Galarza, told state television Wednesday that his country hadn’t issued Snowden any travel documents that would make it easier for him to travel in the absence of his US passport, which has been annulled.