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U.S. cyber leaker Snowden sits tight in Moscow transit

A television screens the image of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe in Moscow's Sheremetyevo
A television screens the image of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe in Moscow's Sheremetyevo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was believed to still be at a Moscow airport on Thursday and officials said he had not booked a flight out despite pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave.

Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong this month after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew to Moscow on Sunday. He had been expected to fly on to Havana on Monday but did not board the aircraft.

The 30-year-old American, who faces espionage charges in the United States and has asked Ecuador for political asylum, has not been seen since his arrival. Russian officials said he remained in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport.

A source at Russian airline Aeroflot said that neither Snowden nor his travelling companion Sarah Harrison, a researcher for the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, had booked a seat on Thursday's flight to Havana.

An Aeroflot representative said earlier that Snowden had not booked a flight departing in the coming days.

An immigration official said Snowden had not applied for a visa to enter Russia and that he could remain in the transit area "as long as he wants" without applying for a transit visa.

Putin has rejected U.S. calls to expel Snowden to the United States and said on Tuesday that he should choose his destination and leave the Moscow airport as soon as possible. Ecuador has said it could take weeks to decide on his asylum request.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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