06/25/2013, 00.00
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Snowden “disappears” in Moscow, freeze on relations between the United States and Russia

by Nina Achmatova
There is no official news of the Nsagate mole and his legal assistant, in search of political asylum between Iceland and South America. Washington has revoked his passport, but for the Kremlin this is not a problem. Putin's dilemma: rift with the U.S. administration or exploit the case for internal use? Obama's visit and the G20 summit imminent.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Nsagate mole, Edward Snowden - the 29 year old who revealed some secrets of surveillance programs used by the American Agency for National Security (National Security Agency, NSA) - has "disappeared" in Moscow. Following friction between Washington and Beijing - who allowed the young man leave Hong Kong in search of political asylum in Iceland and Latin America - the case of his mysterious transit to Russia is putting a strain on the already tense diplomatic relations between the Kremlin and the White House.

Snowden arrived June 23 at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport with a pre-booked flight to Havana, the next day. The final destination was to have been Ecuador, where he officially asked for political asylum. A request that is now in the hands of the authorities. Waiting for him on the flight where dozens of journalists from around the world, however, Snowden and his legal assistant Sarah Harrison (from the Wikileaks team), never checked in. So far, no one has seen them at Sheremetyevo airport, where they met with diplomats from Ecuador and Venezuela. As well as, of course, officials from the Russian secret services. Not having a Russian visa, it is assumed that the two are stuck in the transit area, where, according to Russian sources they "may remain indefinitely."

The U.S. has revoked Snowden's passport, but this is not a problem for Moscow. Appealing to the absence of an Interpol arrest warrant or an extradition agreement with the United States, Russia has made it clear that "there is no basis" to arrest or extradite the "mole", as claimed by the White House.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has pointed the finger at Vladimir Putin, who - he believes - knew and approved of Snowden's flight from Hong Kong. This will have an impact on relations between Russia and the United States, added the politician, echoing the Secretary of State, John Kerry, who had talked about serious repercussions in relations between Washington and Moscow.

Rumors, reports and denials of what is happening in the transit area of ​​Sheremetyevo airport abound. There are those who assume that in exchange for the stop in Moscow, Russia is snatching secrets on the Americans spying systems from Snowden. Others argue that they are trying to solve a problem related to the flying over airspace that may not allow his passage to avoid any conflict with the U.S.. For others Snowden, however, is already safely elsewhere.

Although the Kremlin have distanced themselves from the case, it is difficult to think that the "disappearance" of the former NSA analyst has taken place without the consent of Putin, who is now at a crossroads: risk relations with the U.S. or exploit only temporarily the case for an increasingly nationalist domestic public opinion, in a latest insult to the Obama administration and then, behind the scenes, work with Washington. There is the American president's announced visit to Russia and the G20 in September in St. Petersburg also to be taken into consideration.  The international showcase is too important for the Kremlin to risk over a possible rift with the US

Some analysts such as Anton Orech, from his blog on radio Echo of Moscow, ask "what use is a crisis with the U.S. just for the sake of arguing." The Russian secret service will not be able to steal information that they are not already aware of from Snowden says Orech, and in helping him "there is no gain for Moscow." Even the website Gazeta.ru highlights how the case is yet another "insult" to America at a time when "at the international level impatience is growing with the world's superpower." In this sense, the Snowden case is not only exploited by so-called "rogue states", but also by those nations who aspire to gain a prominent role in the international arena and are not afraid to stand as a kind of "political offshore" for Secret Service agents on the run. This is precisely the case of the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, who has always been considered the geopolitical heir to Hugo Chavez whom he aims to replace as the leader of the anti-American bloc in Latin America.


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