Zee Media Bureau
Moscow: Has he or hasn`t he? The mystery surrounding Edward Snowden deepened on Tuesday when a Russian lawmaker claimed that the NSA leaker had accepted Venezuela`s offer of political asylum.
As soon as the tweet by Alexei Pushkov hit the headlines, the head of the Russian Lower House of Parliament`s international affairs committee deleted the posting.
Notably, Pushkov has acted as an unofficial point-man for the Kremlin on the Snowden affair. But soon after the posting on his Twitter account disappeared, he sent another message saying his claim was based on a report from the state all-news television channel Vesti.
However, no such information could be found on Vesti`s website and no Russian news agency reported that Vesti had reported it. The TV channel could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Kremlin also declined comment on Tuesday`s developments.
Earlier in the day, Pushkov had tweeted: "As was expected, Snowden agreed to (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro`s offer of political asylum".
"Apparently this option looked like the most reliable one to Snowden."
Pushkov`s announcement had come after the leftist governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua had over the past few days offered the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor asylum.
A day earlier, Maduro called on Snowden to decide if he wanted to fly to Caracas.
"We have received the asylum request letter," Maduro told reporters from the presidential palace in Caracas.
"He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here." He called the offers from the three Latin American nations "collective humanitarian political asylum".
But it remains unclear how the world`s most famous refugee would be able to leave the transit zone of Sheremetyevo, where he has been marooned without valid documents since he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23.
There are no direct flights between Moscow and Caracas. The quickest way to get to Venezuela would be to fly via Havana.
A spokeswoman for Russian national carrier Aeroflot, Irina Danenberg, said she was not aware if Snowden had been on the flight to Havana that left Moscow earlier today.
"I have no clue," she said.
There are no direct flights to Havana from Moscow on Wednesday.
(With Agency inputs)