Snowden leaves Hong Kong, reportedly bound for Russia

Snowden leaves Hong Kong, reportedly bound for Russia

Former intelligence operative Edward Snowden flew out of Hong Kong today, reportedly bound for Moscow and onwards to a third destination, momentarily escaping the clutches of US justice in a shock development sure to infuriate Washington.

"Snowden today voluntarily left Hong Kong for a third country through legal and normal means," a Hong Kong government spokesman said in a press statement.

His departure came despite a US arrest warrant and extradition request to authorities in Hong Kong, where the former contractor with the National Security Agency came on May 20 to begin a damaging series of leaks on NSA eavesdropping of phones and computer systems worldwide.

Hong Kong had "not obtained adequate information" to process the provisional arrest warrant issued by the United States against Snowden, and there was "no legal basis" to prevent him leaving, the spokesman's statement said.

The statement added that Hong Kong authorities had informed the US government about Snowden's departure.

The 30-year-old former NSA contractor was aboard Aeroflot flight SU213,
according to the South China Morning Post, which has carried exclusive interviews with Snowden in Hong Kong.

The latest today contained new revelations about US cyber-espionage against Chinese targets that drew a stinging response from China's official news agency.

"Moscow will not be his final destination," the SCMP said, citing "credible sources", raising the possibility of Iceland or Ecuador as Snowden's final destination. The Hong Kong spokesman said merely he was heading to a "third country".

In Moscow, a foreign ministry spokesman said he did not have any information, and a spokeswoman for Aeroflot declined to comment.

Snowden's departure could bring US repercussions against Hong Kong but more broadly will be a shock to the administration of President Barack Obama, which just on Friday had unveiled charges including theft and espionage against him in a bid to force his return from Hong Kong.

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