30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Snowden does not need passport to travel, says refugee expert
Edward Snowden can leave Russia for Venezuela with the support of the two nations despite not having a travel document, according to a refugee expert.
Gerry Simpson, a senior refugee researcher with Human Rights Watch, said this as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after receiving an asylum request from Snowden, urged him to decide if he wanted to fly to Caracas.
"The Russian and Venezuelan authorities have the power to allow Snowden to leave Russia and enter Venezuela without any form of travel document," Simpson said.
"Once Snowden arrives in a country that has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention - like Venezuela - and claims asylum, the authorities there cannot penalise him."
Maduro said his government had received Snowden's asylum request letter. "He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here," he said.
The president's words offered hope for an end to Snowden's limbo existence in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23.
Even though the US had cancelled his passport, Snowden could still leave Russia, Simpson said, saying sovereign nations had the right to act on their own.
Meanwhile, in a second video released by The Guardian, part of an interview conducted with Snowden on June 6 in Hong Kong, the analyst said the US would accuse him of aiding its enemies for leaking information about the National Security Agency.