Snowden deserves protection: Nicolás Maduro

IntRussian President Vladimir Putin with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro at the Kremlin in Moscow Tuesday. ap

DAVID M HERSZENHORN, ANDREW ROTH & ELLEN BARRY

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela Tuesday said he had not yet received an application for political asylum from Edward J Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who is on the run from the American authorities, and that he would not use his plane to ferry Snowden to Caracas.

Still, Maduro, who is visiting Moscow, seemed to hold out the possibility that Venezuela might ultimately agree to shelter Snowden. Speaking to legislators and reporters at the Russian Parliament, Maduro said Snowden deserved protection under international law.

"He did not kill anyone and he did not plant a bomb," Maduro said, according to Russian news services. "He only said a big truth to prevent wars."

As an international oil and gas forum convened here on Monday, there had been speculation that President Vladimir V Putin and Maduro would use the opportunity to negotiate terms for Snowden to leave the transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong nine days ago.

He had apparently intended to board a connecting flight headed for Latin America. In the interim, the United States announced that his American passport had been revoked, leaving him in a geopolitical limbo, stripped of any valid travel document and unable to leave the transit zone.

Russia enjoys warm ties with Venezuela, a major arms customer and energy partner, which sees the alliance as a way of countering the United States' influence in Latin America.

The newspaper Izvestia speculated Monday that Maduro could spirit Snowden away on his presidential plane when he leaves Russia on Tuesday, arranging to take off from Sheremetyevo instead of a government facility at Vnukovo Airport. But at a news conference on Monday, Putin responded blankly to that theory.

"As to the possible departure of Snowden with some official delegation," he said, "I know nothing."

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