The mystery over former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's whereabouts has deepened after Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday rejected US' extradition demand, saying that Snowden is not in the country.
The 29-year-old former intelligence contractor, who was hiding in Hong Kong after leaking secret documents from the US internet and phone surveillance programme reportedly left for Moscow on Sunday.
He was supposed to fly from Moscow to Ecuador on Monday afternoon via Cuba and Venezuela for a possible asylum there but reports suggest that he might be still in Moscow awaiting response from countries like Ecuador and Iceland on his request for an asylum.
Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday hit out at the US for demanding Snowden's extradition and warning the countries that let his free passage.
"We consider the attempts to accuse Russia of violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy, which on top of all that are accompanied by threats, as absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable," National Post quoted Lavrov as saying. "There are no legal grounds for such conduct of U.S. officials."
"We have no relation to Mr. Snowden, his relations with American justice or his travels around the world," Lavrov added. "He chooses his route himself, and we have learned about it from the media."
The US had sent out a warning to other nations not to give shelter or let Snowden travel, alleging that he is wanted on felony charges. The officials said that they are in touch with the countries in the western hemisphere, though which the former CIA contractor might exit to Ecuador.
However, Hong Kong officials had earlier rejected US's request for Snowden's extradition saying that it didn't comply with their laws. He was provided a safe passage to leave the city on Sunday. The US and Hong Kong's extradition treaty of 1998 didn't specifically cite espionage and theft.
Snowden has been in US' wanted list ever since he leaked secret documents of US surveillance programmes that include seizing vast amount of telephone and web information of internet users around the world under NSA programme known as PRISM. He said that he did it in public interest. Several politicians have called him a traitor but his supporters say he is a whistleblower.
He is likely to be given asylum in Ecuador. Foreign Minister of the country, Ricardo Patino on Monday said that they have analysed Snowden's asylum request and the decision would be taken based on freedom of expression and security of the people.
Ecuador had earlier declined to co-operate with the US by giving shelter to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at its London embassy.